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Fostering Community Partnerships and Addressing HIV Health Disparities

Care Resource’s Project DA²RE (Disparities in care Addressed through Access, Retention, and Equity) program has been operating for three years to reduce disparities in access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV in South Florida. The program focuses specifically on under-resourced communities, low-income persons of color, men who have sex with men, and transgender persons living with HIV.

Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the start of the epidemic. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Black/African American people have lower suppression rates compared to all people
living with HIV.

Many people who are living with HIV in under-resourced communities experience challenges with achieving and maintaining viral suppression. Some of these challenges include not being able to afford HIV treatment, missing HIV medical appointments due to lack of transportation, or needing, but not receiving other important health care services. To reach these communities, Care Resource has established partnerships with local organizations like Positive People Network (PPN).

Founded by Alecia M. Tramel, Positive People Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower, strengthen and uplift all people living with HIV/AIDS. Alecia is a prominent member of numerous HIV/AIDS advocacy and outreach organizations throughout South Florida. She founded Positive People Network to help others who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Alecia explains, “As someone who is a long-time survivor of HIV, I understand all of the hurdles and fears associated with it. A lot of the time people don’t have a support system or access to resources.” PPN provides that crucial support and helps individuals with HIV/AIDS access resources to obtain care through programs like Project DA²RE.

Obtaining medical care continues to be a challenge for many people throughout South Florida, especially for uninsured individuals. Without health insurance, HIV treatment regimens can be costly. High drug costs pose a significant barrier to care for low-income individuals who are uninsured, especially black youth who are living with HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, Black youth 13-24 years old experienced the poorest outcomes in terms of reaching sustained viral suppression (29.2%). Lower viral suppression, combined with the higher prevalence of HIV among blacks compared with other racial/ethnic groups, could lead to a higher HIV transmission risk potential.

According to Gena Grant, Youth Director of Positive People Network “One of the things to understand about HIV in the black community is that there are so many obstacles and challenges to affording care. HIV medication is the last thing on someone’s mind when they have to worry about paying for transportation, food, utilities, and rent.”

Project DA²RE utilizes multilevel strategies to improve linkage and engagement to long-term HIV care. These strategies involve identifying social determinants that prevent individuals living with HIV from reaching and maintaining viral suppression. This is essential to maintaining the health of people living with HIV and also for community-level prevention efforts because it significantly reduces or even eliminates the possibility of HIV transmission.

Care Resource’s case managers assist participants of Project DA²RE in regaining control of their health by guiding patients through treatment and helping them qualify for assistance programs. Participants can receive assistance with costs of medication, housing, groceries, transportation, and more. By removing these obstacles to care, patients can focus on reaching and maintaining viral suppression.

Addressing ongoing racial/ethnic disparities in sustained viral suppression continues to be important in efforts to reduce HIV infections in our local communities. Care Resource remains on the front lines working alongside community partners like the Positive People Network on tailored strategies, which address barriers to achieving and sustaining viral suppression, reduce undiagnosed infections, improve engagement in care, and increase sustained viral suppression across South Florida.

About Care Resource:
Care Resource is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with four locations in Midtown Miami, Little Havana, Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. The health center provides comprehensive health and support services to address the full health care needs of South Florida’s pediatric, adolescent, and adult populations.

About Positive People Network:
Positive People Network, works to empower, strengthen and uplift the PLWHA’s communities, by increasing access and awareness around HIV/AIDS education, building skills to increase communication, build relationships, and establish collaborations with organizations working with PLWHA’s, our families and allies.

For media inquiries, please contact Jonathan Welsh, Associate Director of Communications and Development at jwelsh@careresource.org.

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