UAB receives grant to re-engage HIV patients to care, reduce transmission

New project between UAB’s 1917 Clinic and Birmingham AIDS Outreach will seek HIV patients who have fallen out of care and get them back in.

A new collaboration between the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) 1917 Clinic and Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) has received nearly $750,000 from AIDS United as a part of the charitable organization’s Access to Care initiative. The grant will fund Birmingham Access to Care (BA2C), a three-year program that is the first of its kind in Alabama.

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BA2C will identify people living with HIV/AIDS who have fallen out of care, investigate influences that contribute to dropping out of care, assess motivation to return to care and provide necessary re-engagement in that care.

According to UAB Research Informatics Services Center (RISC) Program Manager Scott Batey, M.S.W., individuals with an unsuppressed viral load are more likely to transmit HIV to others, and the most effective means for suppressing viral load is to routinely adhere to antiretroviral medications monitored through regular primary care appointments.

“BA2C will allow us to characterize individuals who are not regularly attending their primary care appointments and are therefore most likely to have an unsuppressed viral load and be more infectious to others,” Batey said. “This project fills a tremendous gap in the HIV continuum of care.”

BA2C will identify people living with HIV/AIDS who have fallen out of care, investigate influences that contribute to dropping out of care, assess motivation to return to care and provide necessary re-engagement in that care.

Batey said this funding is the answer to a goal the 1917 Clinic and BAO have had for some time: to provide outreach to patients who have been lost to follow-up care, characterize them and provide them with an array of resources, such as education and barrier-reduction, to re-engage them in care.

“We will have much satisfaction knowing that through BA2C, we are reaching out to these individuals and not simply allowing them to walk out of our clinic never to return,” Batey added. “We expect to help 600-750 patients over three years.”

According to Batey, the program will have significant public health implications in the Birmingham and surrounding areas for years to come.

The information collected from the three years of BA2C will be subsequently used as support and evidence for additional programs and resources,” Batey said. “Researchers will be able to study data collected regarding social barriers, social stigma, environmental barriers, lab results and treatment protocols.”

James Raper, D.S.N., C.R.N.P., director of the 1917 Clinic, and BAO Executive Director Karen Musgrove will serve as principal investigators for the project, which gets under way Jan. 1, 2013.

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