BMS Foundation Supports Washington AIDS Project

BMS Washington AIDS PartnershipWashington AIDS project uses home visits, pop-up clinics to get HIV patients back into care with Foundation support.

If HIV-positive patients in the greater Washington, D.C., area cannot get to their treatment, the treatment will come to them.

That’s the focus of an innovative, community-driven pilot program – funded in part by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation – that is using a combination of home visits and pop-up clinics co-located with community partners such as churches and housing developments in targeted neighborhoods to help 600 HIV-positive patients return to HIV care.

Meeting Patients Where They Are

“Patients drop out of treatment for any number of reasons – lack of access to providers, transportation or child care; their work schedules, or because of the stigma associated with HIV,” says Channing Wickham, executive director of the Washington AIDS Partnership, the largest private funder of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy in the region. “We determined that the best way to overcome the barriers that keep patients out of care is to meet patients where they are – either in their homes or at locations they frequent throughout their communities.”

The driving force behind the project is a public-private partnership that includes the Washington AIDS Partnership; District of Columbia Department of Health HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HASTA); the BMS Foundation and MAC AIDS Fund. The Foundation’s Specialty Care for Vulnerable Populations initiative and the MAC AIDS Fund are supporting the three-year program through grants of $684,711 and $500,000, respectively.

“The concept of bringing health care to those who need it most was inspired by the strategies used in the global response to HIV infection,” says Michael Kharfen, senior deputy director, HASTA, D.C. Department of Health.

Flexible Program

Hallmarks of this program will be flexibility and mobility. Clinics and services will be available during non-traditional hours, in the evenings and on weekends, and concentrated in areas where they are needed most.

The Foundation’s Specialty Care for Vulnerable Populations initiative supports the testing and adoption of real-world solutions to strengthen, expand and improve the quality of specialty care services for underserved populations living with lung cancer, skin cancer or HIV. The initiative focuses on strengthening health systems – including care collaborations and mentoring partnerships between primary care providers and integrated specialist teams – as well as patient engagement and supportive community services (patient outreach, education and social support such as nutrition and transportation).

Whitman Walker Health, a community health center serving greater Washington’s diverse urban community, was selected to provide health care for the project and is developing plans for reaching patients at home and in their neighborhoods. The Washington AIDS Partnership and HASTA will identify patients and work with staff from Whitman Walker Health to geographically code the data and map clients to identify convenient locations for services.

“The situation in the District of Columbia is not uncommon,” Michael says. “It occurs in many urban areas with populations that are disproportionately affected by the epidemic – communities of color where there is a high rate of poverty.

The Benefits

“Getting HIV patients back into care is critical. When they adhere to an effective treatment regimen, their viral loads can be suppressed to undetectable levels, and that dramatically reduces their chances of spreading the disease,” he explains.

Data from the pilot program will be gathered over two years and will be used to advocate for changes to the District of Columbia’s Medicaid program, which does not cover health care provided at home. It also may be used to advocate for changes to other states’ Medicaid plans as well.

The program dovetails with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy that charts a course of action for the government and all sectors of society to move closer toward the goal of making HIV infection in the U.S. rare and with the District of Columbia’s goal to end the occurrence of new HIV infections by 2020.