Access Family Care receives grant for HIV treatment and prevention | Local News

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Access Family Care recently received part of a $20 million grant focused on the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra recently announced more than $20 million in funding to expand HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services in health centers across the country.

The funding, awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration to 64 health centers, is part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US initiative, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by 90 percent. 2030.

“Community health centers are essential for preventing and treating HIV, especially when it comes to reaching underserved communities,” Becerra said in a statement. “Today’s awards will ensure that high-quality HIV prevention, testing and treatment services are more readily available to Americans who need them most.”

Access applied for the grant in early 2022. In August, it joined health centers across the country to secure the funding and expects to receive a proportional portion of the $20 million grant.

Access provides medical, dental, and behavioral health services to approximately 27,000 people annually in southwestern Missouri. It acts as a safety net for patients who have little or no insurance and provides primary health care services. Access providers said HIV prevention has become the standard for primary care.

“The need in our area is great,” said Tracy Godfrey, chief medical officer at Access Family Care. “HIV is of course a sexually transmitted infection, by and large. In southwest Missouri, we actually have a high rate of other sexually transmitted infections. This exposes this region to higher rates of HIV infection.

As part of its grant application, Access estimated that there were over 100,000 people who would be appropriate for HIV testing in its service area covering Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Barry, Lawrence and Barton counties. . Access tracked and reported to the state 1,500 cases of commonly transmitted sexual infections in 2020. Godfrey said many other infections go unreported.

In 2020, Access reported 300 new HIV cases in its service area and nearly 13,000 cases in Missouri. That makes the state and southwest Missouri a hotspot for HIV risk, Godfrey said.

Godfrey also said that over the past five years syphilis has also increased in the region. The trend is for HIV rates to follow the pattern of syphilis rates, lagging about five years, she said.

“We are at the time when we anticipate that we will start to see HIV prevalence increase,” Godfrey said. “So, all the more reason for prevention efforts.”

With prevention in mind, Access has three primary goals for grant funds. It plans to increase the number of tests available, increase the number of PrEP prescriptions and ensure that those diagnosed with HIV are seen within 30 days.

Although Access has been testing for HIV for many years through lab work, results take 24-48 hours. The grant helps Access partner with the state to provide patients with rapid, free HIV tests that provide results in 15 minutes. Or he can send a test kit home with a patient to take the test. Access hopes to increase awareness of the new tests and reduce the stigma associated with HIV and the stigma of behaviors that put a person at risk of contracting HIV.

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily oral medication that has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing HIV in people at risk. With the grant, Access also plans to increase the number of PrEP prescriptions through partner organizations — such as Ready, Set, PrEP — that will provide patients with access to the drugs at little or no cost. If no options are available to a patient through the partner organizations, the grant will allow Access to provide the drugs directly, also at little or no cost.

“Medication cost is often a barrier for patients to get the care they need, so it will be huge,” Godfrey said.

Access’s goals for funding show how the HIV virus has evolved from something that was once a death sentence to something more manageable with the right treatment regimens.

“People were dying of HIV and AIDS because we didn’t have effective treatment,” Godfrey said. “Fortunately, we have medical science and technological advancements, so people have been living with HIV for a long time and leading relatively healthy lives. Now we are at the point again, that technology and treatments have further evolved to where we are able to offer prevention services, not just treatment services. It is a wonderful blessing that we have reached this point.

Godfrey thinks that if community health centers like Access can spread the word to let people know that HIV services are accessible and effective, and that it’s okay to seek treatment, the goal of ending HIV HIV epidemic is achievable.

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