CrescentCare has been invited to participate in a presentation during the National Ryan White HIV/AIDS Conference in Washington in December (one of 4 organizations). The session will be named the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) Recipients Innovative Approaches to Reaching the National HIV Goals session. We were recommended because of the innovative approaches we have taken to reduce HIV transmission, get people in care and retain them in care. Dr. Van Sickels will present for CrescentCare.
CrescentCare will receive $15,000 for a Community Health Grant from Louisiana Healthcare Connections (3 awards across the state). The proposal requested funding to support the Food For Friends program which provides a food pantry and home delivered meals to homebound individuals living with HIV, cancer patients, and other very low income/homeless individuals who have no other source of food in New Orleans.
The project is a partnership with the Sankofa Community Center in the Lower Ninth Ward to create a new pantry site and cooking classes at the Center and vouchers for fresh produce at the adjacent farmers market. This is a creative partnership project to improve the health of low income individuals in New Orleans.
As Redfield spoke to the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ annual conference in New Orleans this week, a new epidemic, of opioid-related deaths, looms large.
“This is the public health crisis of our time,” Redfield said in an interview Thursday. “It’s a serious crisis that obviously is going to take a lot of innovation and effort to bring to its knees.”
Redfield said he spent much of his time in Louisiana meeting with state and local health officials to discuss the opioid crisis and HIV/AIDS. He also visited the CrescentCare health clinic to learn about its success in reaching new patients with PrEP, an HIV prophylactic.
Opioids have claimed an increasing number of lives in New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the past few years. Last year a majority of the 111 overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish were opioid-related, and 76 percent of the 219 accidental drug-related deaths in New Orleans involved opioids.
And while the HIV/AIDS crisis has largely faded from the headlines, Louisiana still maintains the nation’s second-highest rate of new HIV infections.
Redfield said one of the similarities he sees between the two epidemics is that in the early days of HIV/AIDS treatment, few cities had a full suite of services — not just medical treatment but also social support services.
“We don’t have the tools we need right now. It wasn’t just the treatments we didn’t have when the AIDS epidemic started. Initially, we didn’t have the care systems to actually provide it,” he said.
Redfield is confident that in the long run, science will provide answers to the opioid crisis in the form of new treatments, which he hopes will also prove helpful in combating other addictions like gambling.
In the short term, he supports medication-assisted treatments like methadone and buprenorphine. Studies have shown them to be effective in reducing opioid abuse, but they remain controversial in some circles because they also contain narcotics.
“Clearly, whether it’s methadone or buprenorphine, there’s clear evidence that these products have an impact on illicit opioid use,” he said. “This is a medical condition; it’s not a moral failure.”
Redfield said he worries that the increasing number of opioid deaths could threaten progress on his life’s work of reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
Increasingly, states are adopting a goal of “getting to zero” — eliminating all new HIV infections — by making sure everyone with the disease reduces their viral load through treatment, and by having everyone at risk of infection take PrEP.
“Obviously, the opioid epidemic threatens that, because when people are high on opioids, they may not be taking PrEP,” Redfield said.
Nevertheless, a state like New Hampshire has managed to bring its number of new HIV infections under 30 in a year while struggling with opioid deaths.
“That tells you that they got an opioid epidemic up there, but they got people with HIV treated, and they got people at risk for HIV — largely fairly well educated, gay, Caucasian men — they’re on PREP. That’s what we need to do here,” he said.
Southern states still lag in adopting PrEP, as do African-Americans who are at risk. Still, Redfield said he was impressed with CrescentCare’s success at signing up new patients to take the prophylactic, which reduces the risk of contracting HIV by more than 90 percent when taken daily.
“CrescentCare has over 1,000 people on PrEP right now. That’s actually a major accomplishment,” he said. “The more we accelerate that, the more rapid this epidemic will get closer to zero. But I have no question New Orleans can do it.”
On Thursday July 12, 2018 CrescentCare hosted leadership from the Louisiana State Office of Public Health and leadership from the Centers for Disease Control, including CDC Director, Dr. Redfield. Topics of discussion for this meeting included HIV/STD/Hep C as well as the opioid epidemic.
Walgreens has partnered with Greater Than AIDS, an advocacy group providing resources and information on the HIV epidemic in the U.S., to provide free HIV testing and information at participating Walgreens stores across 180 cities, including New Orleans. The services will be available June 27 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
A member of the popular 610 Stompers dance crew is telling his story about living with HIV. “It really doesn’t matter how one contracts HIV, the important thing is we get tested,” Dorian Alexander said. Alexander hopes his story clears up misconceptions about HIV.
The 2018 New Orleans Pride Parade hit the streets Saturday night, and WDSU and its Parade Tracker was following along. The parade began in the Marigny and ended in the French Quarter. WDSU teamed up with CrescentCare to provide live coverage. Click on the video above to rewatch the parade.
New Orleans #FastTrackCities clinician-lead Jason Halperin discusses rapid ART initiation at CrescentCare – within 72 hrs of diagnosis (CrescentCare Start Initiative) or within 72 hours from first clinic contact (Early Intervention service) @IAPAC #Adherence2018