The start of a new year comes with resolutions not only for individuals and businesses, but for those working in healthcare and leading the fight against HIV. 2020 creates an opportunity to get new people engaged in preventing the spread of HIV and reaffirming the commitment that a positive test result for an HIV patient does not mean a death sentence.
“HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) are both diseases that we have all the necessary tools now to end transmissions,” says Christopher Adkins, Manager of Access Health Louisiana’s AIDS Education & Training Center (AETC) in New Orleans. “The only thing we need now is the resolve to dedicate adequate resources to doing so. Many health professionals in the field were trained in healthcare when HIV and HCV were complex and difficult to treat, thus relegated to specialty care providers.”
Social determinants are common risk factors to both diseases. This includes poverty, mental illness, substance abuse and sex. Providing up-to-date information on treatment, disease management and best practices in behavioral health help arm medical professionals with the tools they need to treat HIV and HCV patients. This is doubly important because as people living with HIV/AIDS live longer, their medical care needs move from the realm of infectious disease into chronic medical problems best managed by generalists and family practitioners. The South Central AETC located in New Orleans trains medical professionals in the best practices for caring for these patients long-term.
The AETC program was established by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 1987. It is administered by the Division of Training and Capacity Development in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program of HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides HIV-related services to more than half a million people each year who do not have enough health care coverage or financial resources to cope with HIV disease. Access Health Louisiana (AHL) is a Ryan White Grant recipient and helps numerous patients living with HIV in New Orleans.
The local AETC has three major resolutions (goals) for its program this year.
First, two major conferences are planned for 2020 in New Orleans – St. Patrick’s Day and Boo=Boo (a play off the U=U movement). The conferences are tied into the festivities for the uptown St. Patty’s Day Parade, as well as the Krewe of Boo parade, respectively. Healthcare professionals spend the day learning about the latest surveillance data, treatment options & implementable strategies, and resources proven to work to improve treatment outcomes. “We also address the existence of stigma by health care providers and their staff that arises from fear of HIV that affect patient care.” After the seminars are over, everyone participating celebrates by attending the parades. Attendees also receive continuing education credits for completing the conference program.
The AETC’s second New Year’s resolution includes offering sex education classes through the New Orleans Recreational Development Commission (NORDC). An online curriculum is being developed for students that will be offered jointly with in-person instruction. The AETC will also provide additional trainings for sex education instruction for professionals interested in developing and implementing age-appropriate sex education in their communities that is LGB and all-gender inclusive. Trainings will be offered for parents on how to talk to their kids about sex and sexuality. Dates for classes will be released soon.
Finally, more HIV awareness will fill the airwaves in 2020 with Resistance Radio. Tune into WHIV 102.3FM on Monday nights with Dr. MarkAlain Déry. He will be joined by guest Ranord J. Darensburg, a local attorney and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Darensburg has more than 25 years of experience dealing with cases in the juvenile justice system. He and Dr. Déry will be addressing issues and perspectives on topics not traditionally associated with HIV.
“As Judicial Administrator, Mr. Darensburg works to eliminate barriers to justice for the youth and families serviced by the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court,” explains Adkins. “Darensburg is instrumental in creating programming to address the behavioral and mental health challenges of court-involved youth and families. He is collaborating with us to address the social determinants of HIV to the social work community.”
Tune in for their first show on January 20th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The topic: addressing how the Civil Rights framework applies to HIV. Panelists for the evening talk show will include Judge Calvin Johnson (retired), Deidra D. Hayes-DSW, BCD, LCSW-BACS and Reverend Darrell E. Woullard, Jr. The hosts and panelists will focus on the role of social work in the civil rights movement as well as a social worker’s role in providing equal access to resources for HIV and HCV patients to meet their basic needs such as healthcare.
2020 promises to be a big year for HIV awareness in New Orleans. Dr. Déry and his team, including Chris Adkins, Sydney Soublet and Lauren Fidelak, are furthering the mission of the national AETC to “improve the quality of life of persons with or at-risk of HIV through the provision of high-quality professional education and training.”