December 18, 2012
AIDS United has given $750,000 to three Birmingham organizations to ascertain the number of HIV-positive persons in the Birmingham region who are not receiving treatment. With this grant, the University of Alabama at Birmingham's 1917 Clinic and the organization Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) will hire two social workers and a project director to gather data on the HIV-positive residents, according to BAO executive director Karen Musgrove. Aletheia House, a substance abuse treatment and prevention service organization, will use $2,000 to provide office space for the social workers at its facility.
Musgrove describes the steps that they will use in working with an HIV-positive person without medical care. They will ask the person why they are not in medical care and determine the barriers that the person has experienced and how these barriers can be broken; they will get the person back into medical care; and they will evaluate the person to figure out ways to keep the individual in care. The Alabama Department of Public Health estimates that there are approximately 6,000 HIV-positive persons in Alabama who have not accessed health care in the last year. Musgrove cites possible reasons, such as lack of transportation, being fearful and not wanting to go to a physician, having mental health issues and substance abuse problems, and being afraid to divulge their HIV status. James Raper, the 1917 Clinic's director, declares that being on HIV medication lowers the chance of passing on HIV to someone else and lowers the viral load to "undetectable" levels. He explains that, "Treatment is prevention. When we treat people, and they're undetectable, the chance of them passing on the virus to someone else is negligible."
The project will run for three years, with the projected start date being January 1, 2013. During the first year, the project is expected to reach 200 to 250 people who are not receiving medical care.