The Telemedicine Link to HIV Care

By Rob Banaszak on July 9, 2013 in Access2Care

by Sandra Percival, Program Director, Telemedicine and Distance Learning Initiatives
Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama

Reashanda's-photo - MAOReashanda White, access and retention liaison for Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama, Inc., makes frequent trips to Selma, where more than 39% of residents live below the federal poverty line.  Reashanda (pictured right) recently visited a drug treatment center there that serves young adults.  Because the center’s clients are considered at increased risk of HIV infection, Reashanda wanted to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and the services MAO provides.

This initial visit led to a partnership with the treatment facility that enables Reashanda to give bi-monthly presentations to these high-risk individuals.  At her first presentation, she was pulled aside by the center director who had several questions about how to get a new resident, who is HIV positive, into treatment.

Thanks to the Social Innovation Fund grant from AIDS United, Reashanda was able to direct him to MAO’s ground-breaking telemedicine clinic in Selma, just around the corner from the drug treatment center. Without the telemedicine clinic, this resident would have had to drive more than an hour away to get to MAO’s Montgomery clinic, or worse,  risk falling out of care.  Thanks to the telemedicine clinic, the Selma patient has a local, full-service treatment center.

Thanks to Reashanda’s proactive approach to outreach, the Selma drug rehabilitation center now refers its residents needing HIV care to the telemedicine clinic.

In rural areas like Selma, poverty and transportation are the two biggest barriers to care for persons living with HIV/AIDS.  Without personal vehicles, many PLWH/A risk disclosing their status in order to find a ride to a treatment center in an urban area.

Telemedicine allows doctors to see patients without the need for travel.  It’s just like being in the room with the provider, but at a much lower cost.

Today, the drug treatment center’s HIV-positive resident is enrolled in care and, with telemedicine, he does not have to travel to Montgomery for his appointments.

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