Linking PLWHA in Louisiana to the HIV Care They Need

By Rob Banaszak on October 20, 2010 in Access2Care

by Michael Robinson, Program Coordinator
Health Systems Division- HIV/AIDS Programs
Louisiana Community AIDS Partnership
Louisiana Public Health Institute

According to 2008 statistics released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Baton Rouge metropolitan area ranks second in the nation in AIDS case rates, and New Orleans is No. 3. Nationally, Louisiana ranked 5th highest in AIDS case rates and 11th in the number of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2007, according to the CDC 2007 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report (Vol. 19).

As we here in Louisiana face one of our greatest Public Health threats, The Louisiana Community AIDS Partnership, a statewide collaborative convened by the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) in alliance with the National AIDS Fund (NAF) and the Louisiana Office of Public Health HIV/AIDS Program, is uniquely poised to make a meaningful impact in helping individuals access the support and care that they need by bringing much needed attention and funding from both the national and local level through public-private partnerships.  The Partnership is in its first year of implementing the Positive Charge Initiative, a multi-year effort aimed at helping to break down the barriers that prevent people living with HIV from receiving HIV care, treatment and necessary support. The initiative’s foundation rests upon strong partnerships with local area organizations to meet the unique needs of individuals living with HIV and will be implemented in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.  Positive Charge is made possible by a grant from National AIDS Fund through a separate grant made by Bristol-Myers Squibb to NAF.

Over the course of the next three years, these partnerships aim to

1) Increase the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS who receive care by improving linkages to medical care and supportive services

2) Work together with the public hospital system, regional STD clinics, and Orleans Parish Prison to help individuals who are newly diagnosed with HIV get into care

3) Increase the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS, who have disconnected from care get back into a care environment that meets their continuing needs

4) Provide interventions that are implemented and led by HIV positive individuals, who will act as peer health case managers.

The relationship between LCAP and its grantees works well because LCAP does not see itself as a “funder” but as a partner with the agencies. This perspective has fostered a relationship where the Partnership is able to provide hands-on involvement in the development of the intervention, a rigorous plan for evaluation  and a capacity building and technical assistance plan for the agencies themselves.  The Partnership is working with partner agencies to implement the following programs:

1) Brief intensive strengths-based linkage case management (ARTAS model) will focus on those who are newly diagnosed to help them access care with the help of a linkage case manager.  Our partners for this intervention are St. John #5/Camp ACE and the Louisiana Office of Public Health HIV/AIDS Program. With this unique paring they will reach out to individuals in the Greater New Orleans area.

2) HIV-Specific Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) will focus on those who have fallen out of care to connect persons identified in clinics as being out of care and those identified through public testing sites and the Louisiana Public Health Information Exchange (LaPHIE) network as being out of care. We are grateful to have The Louisiana Office of Public Health-STD Program and Office of Public Health-HIV/AIDS Program as our partners for this intervention.

3) Community Based Health Educator/Navigator in a hospital based clinic intervention focus on those who have fallen out of care in hospital based clinics through intensive follow-up after missed appointments. N’R PEACE, Inc., a local grassroots AIDS Service Organization and The ILH HIV/AIDS Outpatient Clinic will target its efforts in the New Orleans area.

4) The Pre/Post-Release Case Manager intervention will work with inmates who are HIV positive to provide case management services while in prison and attempt to assure continuity of care after release. Targeting individuals in the Greater New Orleans area, our partners NO/AIDS Task Force and Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) have the ideal relationship to assist these individuals.

5) And finally our Community Based Health Navigation intervention will focus on those who have fallen out of care in hospital based clinics to ascertain their needs and provide peer support. We believe that our partners, the Earl K. Long Earl Intervention Clinic (EKL-EIC) and Capital Area Reentry Program (CARP) are uniquely positioned in the Baton Rouge area to provide the most impact to individuals needing assistance.

The Partnership is particularly excited about the opportunity that Positive Charge brings to build upon and expand already existing programs that increase access to care for those with HIV/AIDS as well as adding innovative interventions that are proven to increase the chances that someone will feel comfortable accessing care. In addition, the Partnership is proud of our strong collaboration with the State HIV/AIDS program so that programmatic design, decision making and evaluation can be based on surveillance data which indicate the areas of greatest need and will help monitor the success of program interventions. We are discovering the Partnership’s greatest asset is its ability to partner with a diverse set of stakeholders who represent entities such as the public hospital system, grass roots community based organizations and the prison system. In addition, the Partnership is fortunate to have a very dedicated group of partners at all levels.

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