Our quarterly roundup of news, information, events, and more
35 Years of Pride
APLA Health began humbly—volunteers in a converted closet answering phones at a time when everything we knew about AIDS fit on a few sheets of paper on a single clipboard. June was Pride month in Los Angeles and around the world, but we have had much to take pride in over the last 35 years. APLA Health has come a very long way from a single location with HIV and AIDS services for 99 clients to a federally qualified health center with 16 locations across Los Angeles County. This year we will serve more than 15,000 patients and clients, including low-income Angelenos, members of our LGBT community, and people living with or at risk of acquiring HIV.
We remain as committed as ever to making sure that the most accurate HIV health information is available, not just for our patients, but for providers, employers, insurers, and the general public. Our Treatment Education Program—highlighted below—has been here since the beginning, helping people understand the best health care options for the treatment of HIV and AIDS. The program is also expanding as we take on critical new projects such as addressing the specific needs of older adults living with HIV.
Our HIV prevention teams have enhanced their client health education services by providing “personal health navigation sessions.” These one-on-one sessions allow for a customized approach to sexual health and wellness. The goal is simple: people are more likely to follow through in accessing and remaining connected to health services that fit their lifestyle.
Earlier this summer, we had the honor of participating in the Long Beach and L.A. pride festivals and parades. We were thrilled to see all the diversity of our community and so many familiar faces. I was personally inspired by the large number of patients, clients, and volunteers who were able to march with us in the parades. Thank you to everyone who came out to walk with us or just say “hi”—it was great to see you. In addition to all the fun aspects of the festivals, it’s important to remember that we still need to show our pride to fight stigma, to fight discrimination, and to fight for our communities.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to let you know that registration is now open for AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2018, which will take place on October 21, 2018, in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. AIDS Walk is our largest fundraiser of the year, and we would love to have you join us by registering, forming a team, or walking with Team APLA Health and raising money to support critical services for clients of APLA Health. For more information, please visit la.aidswalk.net.
As you can tell from this month’s Optimist, APLA Health is working hard at expanding our services to help the community and continue the fight to end AIDS in our lifetime. I am truly proud to be working with you to make that happen.
Getting to know:
HIV/Hep C Health Promotion Program
An integral part of APLA Health’s client services is HIV/Hep C Health Promotion, managed by Brian Risley. The core of the program is treatment education for clients to help them understand disease management, connect to care, learn about their labs and medications, and develop strategies for healthy living.
Every few years we see new advancements in the treatment of HIV, but in the early days of the epidemic it took six years for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the first drug to treat the disease. In 1987, the FDA bowed to public pressure by speeding up clinical trials, and azidothymidine (AZT) became the first AIDS medication. Today, if someone is diagnosed with HIV, there are more than 41 different drug options to treat them, and some require only one pill a day. Compare that to older AZT regimes, when clients took dozens of pills a day and set alarms every four hours to be adherent to their meds.
APLA Health’s Treatment Education Program was created to help patients and providers understand the changes in how we treat the disease, end stigma, and ultimately end the epidemic. We understood early on that there was a gap in knowledge about available treatment options not just between researchers and the public, but also between researchers and health care providers. Our Treatment Education Program created materials, hosted community forums, and provided one-on-one sessions for understanding HIV drugs, their side effects, and the best ways to promote adherence.
Through this program, APLA Health was also the first organization in Southern California to host a biomedical prevention forum and an HIV Cure Forum that introduced the Berlin Patient, the first person to be cured of HIV, to the West Coast. We also raised the issue of growing older with HIV at a time when research in that field was in its infancy. The program continues to produce our HIV Matters conference series, which has historically been the first to launch emerging topics into community awareness.
Continuing education on HIV and treatment is still needed. At the same time, the scope of the program has grown, and this expansion is reflected by its new name: HIV/Hep C Health Promotion.
The HIV/Hep C Health Promotion Program is working with our Government Affairs team as part of a statewide consortium funded by the California HIV/AIDS Research Program to eradicate HIV, Hep C, and STDs. They were also instrumental in the creation of a strategic plan, “End Hep C LA.” The working group consists of HIV/Hep C Health Promotion staff, members of the Hepatitis C Task Force for Los Angeles County, HCV health care advocates, and representatives from the L.A. County Department of Public Health and academia. The HIV/Hep C Health Promotion Program will also reinstate the very successful Treatment Education CE trainings for health care providers which were conducted quarterly from 2008-2014.
In addition to those projects, the HIV/Hep C Health Promotion Program is continuing to change with the disease and our community with new programs for women and a client base that is ageing—70 percent of APLA Health’s clients are now over the age of 50. These initiatives will address stigma, isolation, life skills, and managing co-morbidities.
With all the changes that have occurred since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, APLA Health has been responsive by delivering to our community and providers the health information and interventions that they need to end HIV in our lifetime. The HIV/Hep C Health Promotion Program will continue to use knowledge as a weapon to stop the epidemic.
The missions of APLA Health and L.A. Care could be called “perfectly aligned” because both are committed to improving access to quality care that is also culturally competent and delivering a wide network of benefits to our patients and clients.
L.A. Care Health Plan was established in 1997 to be one of two providers of Medi-Cal for residents of Los Angeles County. Today they are the largest publicly-operated health plan in the country, serving more than 2 million members.
L.A. Care is committed to the promotion of accessible, high quality health care that:
- is accountable and responsive to the communities they serve
- is driven by continuous improvement and innovation
- reflects a commitment to cultural diversity and knowledge to serve members with respect
- empowers their members by providing health care choices and education and encourages their input as partners in improving their health
- demonstrates L.A. Care’s leadership by active engagement in community, statewide, and national collaborations and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable low income communities
In addition, L.A. Care is committed to serving the LGBTQ community. They have ongoing training of internal staff and external partners to promote LGBTQ cultural competency and best practices, and they collaborate with local primary care physicians (including APLA Health), provider groups, and health plans to streamline and clarify transgender benefits.
L.A. Care has launched a number of initiatives aimed at improving the health of their members and others in the community. In addition to the new provider incentive program at APLA Health, they have invested $20 million to support the L.A. County Housing for Health program; began programs to recruit new primary care physicians into the safety net in Los Angeles County; and established their TransHealth Program to serve hundreds of transgender individuals, helping them “navigate the system” and access surgical services.
L.A. Care prioritizes health care quality, access, and inclusion. Nothing will deter them from their mission of making quality care accessible to vulnerable populations—they are here for all of Los Angeles. APLA Health is proud to be a continued partner of L.A. Care!
We want to know your story.
APLA Health provides services to more than 14,000 people, and we want to know their stories. Have you been receiving services from APLA Health? Are you a new patient or client? Have you or a loved one been affected by HIV? Has a staff member gone above and beyond what you were expecting?
We want to know the full story. What are we are doing well? How we can serve you better?