Winter 2019

OPTIMIST

Our quarterly roundup of news, information, events, and more

In the Spotlight

Welcome new staff and program to APLA Health

It has been an exciting winter at APLA Health. We opened a new health center (APLA Health – Olympic), launched a new program (HIVE), increased access to our Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries, and brought in some amazing new staff. But we’re not slowing down! In 2019, APLA Health will further expand as we continue our fight to ensure that everyone has access to quality, culturally competent healthcare and support services.

In December, we officially cut the ribbon for our newest health center, APLA Health – Olympic. This new site will provide 5,000 Los Angeles County residents with quality primary medical care, HIV specialty care and support services, and HIV and STD screening and treatment and prevention services—including PrEP counseling and management. Our site medical director is Dr. Jay Gladstein, one of the country’s top physicians specializing in infectious disease. Joining Dr. Gladstein are Wayne Ho, MD, Ann Easley, NP/PA, Peter Anderson, NP, and Kevin Rachut, NP. All services are available to everyone regardless of insurance status, HIV status, gender identity, sexuality, or income level. Our new health center is in the Olympia Medical Plaza at 5901 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 310 in Los Angeles. The state-of-the-art facility has nine exam rooms, a medical provider hub for better care coordination, and a laboratory and on-site dispensary to better serve our patients.

On February 11, we welcomed Dr. Michael Gottlieb to APLA Health – Olympic. While a young researcher at UCLA in 1981, Dr. Gottlieb was the first to identify and describe AIDS as a new syndrome. He identified the CD4 T-cell deficiency as the hallmark immune system abnormality caused by HIV, a finding which directly led to the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983.

Dr. Gottlieb is an allergist and immunologist and has been a leader in AIDS treatment and care throughout the epidemic. He was physician to actor Rock Hudson and in 1985 helped Dame Elizabeth Taylor found the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). He has served on the Boards of Directors of AIDS Project Los Angeles and the AIDS Service Center as well as on numerous scientific advisory committees including to the State of California, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1987, he has operated Gottlieb Medical Group, a private medical practice.

You may think that opening one new clinic would be enough, but then you wouldn’t know our staff and their commitment to the low-income LGBT community of Los Angeles and people living with HIV/AIDS! In early summer of this year we will open a new behavioral health clinic in the Olympia Medical Plaza to provide mental health and substance use counseling to patients of APLA Health – Olympic Health Center as well as care coordination, PrEP counseling and management, and health education.

Our new expanded program for older adults living with HIV (HIVE) is up and running! HIVE provides a series of life skills workshops and social and cultural activities which address the psychological, physical and health aspects of older adults living with HIV. While most traditional interventions seek to modify specific behaviors, HIVE seeks to help with many issues including stigma, trauma, social isolation, social support, health literacy and self-care.

In November, we expanded eligibility for our Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries to 200% of the federal poverty level. This expansion will allow us to provide nutritious groceries and personal care products to hundreds more low-income people with HIV/AIDS from across Los Angeles County every week. With rapidly rising rents in Los Angeles County fueling a homeless crisis, we are doing all we can to provide support so our clients can remain in their housing.

APLA Health has always taken the lead in responding to needs in our communities by opening new sites and creating new programs and services. All this is possible only because of the generosity of supporters like you. Please enjoy this edition of Optimist and read more about how your support is improving lives in our community.

Thank you so much.

Craig E. Thompson
Craig E. Thompson
CEO, APLA Health

Photo: Aurelia Ventura | La Opinión

News & Noteworthy

Getting to know:

APLA Health Dental Care Services

APLA Health’s Dental Care services started in 1985 in a wood-paneled trailer in West Hollywood Park. Today, 34 years later, APLA Health has four dental services locations across Los Angeles County.

When APLA Health (then AIDS Project Los Angeles) established a dental office that served HIV positive clients, it was in response to the lack of these services being available anywhere. In fact, that trailer in West Hollywood Park was the very first dental office in the entire nation to cater to the needs of people living with HIV. In those days, the stigma against HIV was so intense that dentists could take courses teaching them how to legally turn away or get rid of patients. It was also common practice for dentists to double up on their protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, out of fear that they would contract HIV/AIDS. To this day, we still have clients telling us about dentists who took these extra “precautionary” steps or turned them away. Therefore, providing dental care to people living with HIV quickly became a vital part of APLA Health’s services.

Today, APLA Health has 20 dental chairs at four different locations across Los Angeles County. We are able to offer general dentistry services to our patients as well as connect them to specialist services through USC and UCLA’s Schools of Dentistry. This is all available to our patients for free or on a low-cost sliding scale. With our transition to a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2014, we provide services for anyone, regardless of HIV status, income, or insurance.

Expanding to multiple locations, opening our doors to everyone, and being the first dental provider for people living with HIV has allowed us to break down the limits that keep people from seeing the dentist, including cost, stigma, and ease of access. Make no mistake, however, about the conditions of our dental sites. The days of providing dental work in trailers are long behind us, and today we offer first-class services in first-class buildings.

Looking forward, APLA Health is constantly shifting and adapting to reach new goals and better serve our clients. Dr. Steven Vitero, APLA Health’s Dental Director who oversees all four locations, has a few goals in mind as well. He would personally love to expand the residency program to allow for more residents at once. He not only appreciates having the extra help at the clinics but also thoroughly enjoys working with and mentoring these young professionals. Dr. Vitero would also like the opportunity to offer specialist services on-site, instead of having to refer patients out. This change would remove the step of having to visit multiple locations and dentists, and increase the likelihood of patients staying in care and getting the services they need.

The people who choose to work at APLA Health do so because they understand our core values, and it fills them with pride to offer critical services to those who need them most. Angelica Barajas, our Clinic Director, started in 2008 as a Dental Assistant. She recalls a time when a patient insisted she would not be able to x-ray him without making him gag. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Angelica walked the patient through breathing exercises and kept him informed of every step she took during the procedure. The patient, never having received an x-ray without discomfort, was so surprised by her gentle nature and expertise that he hugged her, thanked her, and immediately told her supervisor.

Angelica still remembers this moment well, and it keeps her fulfilled and optimistic on even her toughest days. Dr. Vitero says he is happy to be at APLA Health because, in private practice, concerns regarding payment and insurance issues prevented him from being able to focus solely on providing his best work, and he also remembers a specific procedure in his career here that he found particularly rewarding. A patient sat in his chair one day who had been living with broken teeth for 20 years. All the patient had received from other dentists (if they didn’t turn him away for being HIV positive) were shoddy fillings that only temporarily treated the problem. Dr. Vitero was able to give this patient his first actual crown, and the patient was so overwhelmed that he began to cry. Dr. Vitero knew then that treating those who have been avoided and overlooked due to HIV status or income is far more fulfilling than any work he’d done in the past.

From the beginning, APLA Health has always been committed to providing health care equity to underserved communities, including the LGBTQ population and people living with HIV. Today, we stand by that mission even more with more locations, more clinicians, and more opportunities. For more information on our dental program, visit aplahealth.org/services/dental-care.

HIVE

(HIV-Elders)

APLA Health has implemented a new program tailored for men who are 50 years of age and older and living with HIV.

It is predicted that by 2020, 70% of people living with HIV will be men over 50. HIVE is designed to improve the health and well-being of these men by addressing the burdens that impact them. This program will facilitate the self-efficacy of members of this population, many of whom are “long-term survivors” of HIV/AIDS, to improve their quality of life.

The HIVE program uses the following methods:

  • Shared interest groups
  • Life skills support
  • Health education
  • Community building/social networks

HIVE has hosted a series of health education dinners, coffee chats, and bowling nights and will introduce a monthly movie night in 2019 to its growing base of more than 100 constituents.

HIVE has an active Community Advisory Board (CAB) of 10 persons living with HIV over 50 years old who have advised staff on the program. The CAB was part of a successful launch party that brought together a hundred of their peers in an evening of support, dining and entertainment.

HIVE is continuing to develop new curricula that will be implemented in 2019 across the Los Angeles to interactively address stigma, trauma, resilience and cognitive thinking in smaller, safe groups. For more information on the program, please contact Brian Risley at brisley@apla.org.

Partner Profile

Quest Diagnostics

Vision: Empowering better health with diagnostic insights

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, serving one in three American adults each year.

Over the span of more than 50 years, Quest has developed countless innovative diagnostic information services, with several firsts for clinical laboratory tests in areas such as women’s health, genetics, infectious diseases and cancer. For example, the company was the first commercial laboratory to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization for a molecular Zika test.

Quest provides services that empower people to take action to improve health outcomes. Derived from the world’s largest database of clinical lab results, the company’s diagnostic insights reveal new avenues to identify and treat disease, inspire healthy behaviors and improve health care management.

There is clear alignment between APLA Health’s mission to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV, and Quest’s vision of working with healthcare providers and patients to empower better health with diagnostic insights. APLA Health’s work to improve health for underserved communities compliments our commitment to educating, empowering, and strengthening diverse communities.

Quest has a deep commitment to our patients, employees, the environment, and the communities in which we work and live. We are proud to support community initiatives and nonprofit organizations that share our values, such as APLA Health, which provides vital prevention and care services.

Share Your Story

APLA Health provides services to more than 15,000 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?

Tell us your story!

Save the Dates

Los Angeles HIV & Aging Summit

12.7.19 - 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Health and wellness for people 50+ living with HIV. Join us for inspirational presentations, entertainment, free food, and prizes!

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Yoga: Breathe, Stretch, Relax

Tuesdays

Healthy Him offers free yoga classes. We provide everything you need: water, yoga mat, and relaxing ambiance.

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