Local group helping people with HIV would welcome more federal help


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By Sabrina Wilson | February 7, 2019 at 6:46 PM CST – Updated February 7 at 6:46 PM

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – HIV remains a stubborn problem in Louisiana, and a local organization that helps people who are living with the disease said it welcomes President Trump’s goal of wiping out the illness.

“We in New Orleans remain the third-highest rate of new HIV infections as a city of anywhere else in the country. So, we remain on the front lines of the HIV epidemic,” said Dr. Jason Halperin, an infectious disease physician with CrescentCare, an organization which was formerly the NO/AIDS Task Force.

President Trump said during his State of the Union address this week that his administration is working to end HIV and AIDS in America.

“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond,” said Trump.

“I applaud the president for setting the goal of ending the epidemic by 2030. It is possible, and we have the tools to do so,” said Dr. Halperin.

Following the president’s remarks, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services released information on an action plan.

HHS says the president’s initiative will work to reduce new infections by 75-percent in the next five years and by 90-percent in the next 10 years.

According to the federal government, the plan will fund three major areas of action:

1) Increased investments in geographic hotspots through existing and new programs

2) The use of data to identify where HIV is spreading the fastest to address prevention, care and treatment needs at the local level

3) Funds for the creation of a local HIV Health Force in targeted areas to expand prevention and treatment services

Dr. Halperin believes the goal of wiping out HIV is achievable.

“We need to test as many people as possible. Those who are positive, we need to start them on treatment immediately and anyone who is at risk of HIV there is a pill, one pill once a day called PREP that prevents HIV. It is those three pillars and we could end the epidemic,” he said.

Halperin said rapid treatment of people diagnosed with the virus is happening in the city.

“In New Orleans, anyone diagnosed in the city, we see them at CrescentCare, and the same day they’re diagnosed we start them on medication because the medication is that safe, and once they’re started they will live as long a life as if they did not have HIV, and when on medication you cannot transmit the virus. It is an incredible scientific feat,” said Dr. Halperin.

He also favors HIV testing as part of annual medical exams.

“One hundred percent,” Halperin stated.

And while experts say it is hard to deny that major progress has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, many want more education at the community level.

“We need better education, sexual education starting in early, in high schools is incredibly important because what we see is the highest risk are people between the ages of 18 and 25, and especially people of color,” said Dr. Halperin.

He and others said ending the stigma attached to the virus should also be a priority.

“This illness continues to be stigmatized and we need to de-stigmatize HIV and President Trump has not done that,” said Halperin.

Copyright 2019 WVUE. All rights reserved.

Source: WVUE

Transgender woman able to get treatment she needs with help of CrescentCare, new facility


A transgender woman in New Orleans is speaking out about the struggles she and others face on a daily basis and how a new affordable health care facility will help make their lives better.

She said one of the most critical issues for her is a lack of access to health care.

CrescentCare’s new, $23 million facility opened Saturday. The facility offers affordable health care for people from all backgrounds and ages.

It also has a focus on the transgender community.

“People yelling that they would push you in front of a car if you are at the bus stop. People talking about that they would rather see you dead on the sidewalk than alive in a building,” Rachel Chamness said. “I go outdoors thinking I hope no one tries to kill me in the middle of the street.”

Those are some of the daily struggles Chamness said she faces. She was born a man but identifies as a woman. After coming out as trans, she said her parents disowned her.

“I was largely homeless. I was unemployed, lacked an income,” Chamness said.

Chamness said she had went without health care for years and received necessary care at CrescentCare’s other facility, which is much smaller than this new facility.

“I got the first comprehensive health care I had gotten in years. Let’s get you a mammogram. Let’s get you an STI screening. Let’s get you an HIV test, a hepatitis C test. Let’s check your blood sugar all of your basic health care that I had to ignore for years because I didn’t have the ability to afford it. I wept openly. I was in the exam room with my nurse and a nurse practitioner,” Chamness said.

“The goal of this building was to give us more capacity to see more individuals in the community that need access to primary care and behavioral health services. It has quadrupled the number of exam rooms that we are able to offer,” Noel Twileback, CEO of CrescentCare, said.

The new facility at 1631 Elysian Fields opens Saturday at 11 a.m.

Source: WDSU

Southern AIDS Coalition allocates $1 million for grants throughout South – Birmingham Business Journal

Southern AIDS Coalition allocates $1 million for grants throughout South – Birmingham Business Journal

A Birmingham-based nonprofit has handed out nearly $1 million so far in 2019 to help combat HIV-related stigma throughout the South. The Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) has awarded $665,000 to nine organizations through its Transformative Grant program as well as $283,778 to 12 organizations through its SPARK! Grant program.

Gender clinic aims to improve medical care for transgender patients in New Orleans | nola.com

It’s been over a decade since Malaysia Walker’s life started a new course.

At the time, Walker was living in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, as a gay man.

That’s what she was limited to, she said, “Back then, it was either gay or straight.”

She dressed masculine and grew out a mustache to try to fit in. But it didn’t feel right.

“I was uncomfortable trying to live up to those standards every single day,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was. But I knew I felt uncomfortable.”

Over time, Walker realized she was a transgender woman and began researching what that meant. Almost immediately, she found that one of the greatest barriers was accessing adequate medical care that catered to transgender patients.

“They didn’t know what medical care meant for trans people and, unless you did research, you didn’t know either,” Walker said in an interview at the CrescentCare clinic on Elysian Fields Avenue, where she now works as a retention specialist for transgender women who have fallen out of the healthcare system.

Transgender patients face huge challenges in Southern states where the number of medical providers trained to work with this patient group is limited, advocates say. In New Orleans, CrescentCare is on a short list of three health systems that have policies in place to provide equal access to healthcare for LGBT patients, employees and visitors. Transgender patients sometimes have to travel from neighboring states and rural areas of Louisiana to get medical care at the clinic in New Orleans.

“We don’t have the infrastructure in the South. We are shuffling around the nation looking for medical care,” said Camilla Marchena, 26, who works at CrescentCare connecting transgender women to the clinic.

Doctors who haven’t worked much with transgender patients might not be familiar with the side effects of medicines involved in hormone replacement therapy, or the complications they can have with other medications, Walker said.

Transgender patients may also avoid going to the doctor at all based on previous experiences. A year ago, The Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research and advocacy organization, conducted a national survey that found discrimination in health care settings often discourages people who identify as LGBTQ from seeking medical care.

About 29 percent of transgender people surveyed said that a doctor or health provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Another 29 percent said they had experienced unwanted physical contact from a doctor or health care provider, including fondling, sexual assault or rape.

Under the Trump administration, this patient group has faced further setbacks, advocates say. In November, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHH) issued a final rule broadening religious exemptions in health care law and giving health providers and insurers the right to deny service to patients based on religious or moral grounds.

In October, The New York Times reported the DHH was rolling back a series of decisions by the Obama administration recognizing gender by what the person chose and not the sex they were assigned at birth. The agency said in a leaked memo obtained by the Times that government agencies had to have a uniform definition of gender determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

A lack of safe and inclusive medical care means that many transgender patients have to resort to buying their hormones online and off the black market, according to Sable Murphy, 27, a trans woman who receives care at CrescentCare.

Murphy says she is fortunate that her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is covered by Medicaid. As soon as she was able to start with HRT, everything fell into place, she said

“The testosterone lowering, the estrogen increase, all of these things help me feel better, like a whole-rounded person,” she said. “People need to see us, they need to get comfortable with us, there is no other way around it.”

The gender clinic at CrescentCare opened about two years ago with a focus on providing healthcare specific to transgender patients. This includes monitoring of hormone levels and their side effects, but also providing comprehensive medical care from providers who know how to correctly address and identify their patients.

Tonya Smith, 36, also moved to New Orleans from Jackson, Miss., where she had started hormone replacement therapy. She said her doctors weren’t trans sensitive and the medication they gave her wasn’t working.

“They treated me pretty much like I was a science project or something,” she said. “It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

Smith moved to New Orleans three years ago and during the first two years went to a different clinic in the city. It was rocky trying to find a provider she felt comfortable with, she said. One of her providers never gave her a wellness check while she was a patient at the clinic.

“He didn’t want to touch my body or look at certain parts of my body,” Smith said.

That was when her social worker suggested Smith look for alternatives, eventually connecting her to the gender clinic at CrescentCare.

“The resources they have here have really lifted me and just encouraged me. I’m in a good place,” she said.

Each year the Human Rights Campaign publishes an index of healthcare facilities around the U.S. that have policies and practices in place to be inclusive and provide equal care for LGBT patients, visitors and employees. Only three New Orleans facilities were included in the most recent list: CrescentCare, Ochsner Health System and the VA Southeast Louisiana Healthcare System.

This was the second year in a row the VA hospital was recognized for its care of LGBT patients. The facility provides mental health services, pre- and post-surgery care for transgender patients, and offers a transgender support group coordinated by a licensed clinical worker.

Dr. Brandy Panunti, an endocrinologist at Ochsner who works with transgender patients, said last year that the health system was focused on standardizing training for all employees and establishing non-discrimination policies. This includes establishing the correct coding when a provider has to order gender-specific exams (like a pelvic exam) so a patient isn’t denied insurance coverage because the exam does not match their preferred gender identity.

Some clinics still require trans patients to be in therapy and provide a letter from their therapist saying it’s OK for them to transition, whether they choose to start HRT or surgical sex reassignment, Marchena said. She started her transition at CrescentCare two and a half years ago.

“Here we use informed consent, meaning you’re aware of what you’re doing. That’s the way it should be,” she said. “I don’t need validation. This is not a mental health issue. I can make this decision for myself.”

Gender clinic at CrescentCare

Malaysia Walker describes her experiences having access to adequate medical care as a transgender woman.

Photo and article originally appeared on nola.com

Jeanne and Alexander Kaiser in their earlier and later years.
Jeanne and Alexander Kaiser in their earlier and later years.

NO/AIDS Task Force has received one of the largest individual donations from the Estate of Jeanne and Alexander Kaiser in honor of their son, Dr. Michael Kaiser. The Kaisers left over $130,000 to NO/AIDS Task Force. With the blessing of Dr. Mike and his sisters, the funds will be used for the Capital Campaign for the new CrescentCare health center currently under construction at 1631 Elysian Fields.

According to Noel Twilbeck, CEO of CrescentCare, the donation is one of the largest personal donations in the agency’s 35-year history and the largest donation to the Capital Campaign to date.

“The generosity of Jeanne and Al and the legacy of Dr. Mike’s work will continue on in our new home,” Twilbeck said. “We are ever grateful of the legacy he built in New Orleans. This kind of giving will have an impact for generations of people who seek care at CrescentCare. These genuine gifts of the heart enable us to better serve the community.”

Dr. Mike spent nearly 15 years working in the HIV/AIDS arena in New Orleans.. He was one of the founders of NO/AIDS in 1983 and served as our Medical Director until 1998 when he left New Orleans for Washington, DC where he accepted a position in the Ryan White Bureau.

Dr. Kaiser, a pediatrician and the medical director of Children’s Hospital Emergency Room, was also concerned about children and infected teens. Along with a colleague at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Kaiser in 1988 authored a proposal to HRSA to develop the Pediatric AIDS Program, now known as FACES. Children’s Hospital had begun to see children infected from birth and through blood transfusions. At that time only 12 children under 14 in Louisiana were diagnosed. He also oversaw the funding and development of the Resources for Adolescents Program (RAP), recognizing the need to prevent the transmission of HIV to youth in the New Orleans area.

His parents wanted to honor the legacy of the work their son had accomplished in New Orleans and they were fond of the agency their son helped create. As a result, they set up the Alexander and Jeanne C. Kaiser Irrevocable Charitable Remainder Unitrust, the first ever bequeathed to the agency.

“My parents were volunteers and believed in social justice and were always philanthropic with their time and money. As children of the depression, they were cautious and knew how to save and plan. As part of their estate planning, they wanted to support NO/AIDS, something that makes me very proud,” Dr. Kaiser said.

According to EstatePlanning.com by placing an asset into a trust, the asset is removed from the estate, so no estate taxes will be due upon death. An immediate charitable tax deduction is given.for the value of the gift and no capital gains taxes are due. The trustee then sells the asset at full market value and re-invests the proceeds in income-producing assets. For the rest of your life, the trust pays you income. When you die, the remaining trust assets go the charity(ies) you have chosen.

“While the tax laws have changed since this trust was established in the 1990’s, this approach could still be an important strategy for some NO/AIDS supporters,” Dr. Kaiser added.   “My Mom, who passed last year at age 95, wrote an annual letter to Noel, apologizing for living so long. She knew, that the longer she lived, the value of the donation was shrinking as she was living off the income being generated. My Dad, who passed in 1999, would have reminded her that the donation was working exactly as he had planned…. supporting her living expenses, saving taxes, and supporting NO/AIDS.”

If you would like to find how to support the Capital Campaign or leave a lasting legacy to CrescentCare, please visit www.crescentcare.org or call Director of Development, Rodney Thoulion at 504-821-2601, Ext.203.




We recently completed the construction and move of behavioral health and our substance treatment programs to the 3rd floor of 3308 Tulane Ave.

CDC says spread of STDs at all time high

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is at an all time high. The CDC says there were nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis diagnosed in the U.S. last year. The agency adds those numbers surpassed the previous record in 2016.

Watch: 2018 Pride Parade 

Watch: 2018 Pride Parade in New Orleans

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.

3 New Orleans health providers named leaders in LGBT care | NOLA.com

The VA Southeastern Louisiana Health System, nine Ochsner locations, and CrescentCare were all designated Leaders in LGBTQ care by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2018. They were among 418 facilities surveyed across the U.S. to receive the designation. (Photo by Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) ORG XMIT: NOLA2015061614435814(Ted Jackson)

By Maria Clark NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Three New Orleans healthcare providers have been recognized as “LGBT Healthcare Equality Leaders” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for their commitment to provide inclusive environments for their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) patients and employees.

A total of seven Ochsner locations — including Ochsner Baptist, the Ochsner Medical Centers on Jefferson Highway, Kenner, North Shore and its West Bank Campus — as well as the New Orleans Veterans Administration Hospital and the CrescentCare Community Health Center were recognized in the HRC Foundation’s annual Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) released March 27.

The index scores facilities on their policies and practices aimed at creating more inclusive environments for LGBT patients, visitors and employees. This year, 626 healthcare facilities around the U.S. participated in the survey. Providers can elect to participate and are graded in the areas of LGBT patient-centered care, LGBT patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, and LGBT patient and community engagement. To earn a healthcare equality leader designation, the facility has to score a 100 in each of these categories.

The HEI was created to address health disparities and inequalities LGBT patients can sometimes experience in healthcare settings. About 52 percent of transgender patients and 9 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents said they believed they would be refused medical services because of their LGBT status, according to the index.The survey showed remarkable progress among participating facilities, including a 63 percent increase (70,000 hours) across the board in LGBT care training across all 626 hospitals surveyed over the past year.

The release of the 2018 HEI coincided with the deadline for public comments on a proposed “conscience” regulation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The proposal would protect health care providers who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services based on religious or moral grounds.If approved, it would allow a provider to file a complaint under the Federal Health Care Provider Conscience Protection Statute, if they feel they have been discriminated against for objecting or refusing to participate in medical procedures — such as abortion, sterilization or sex reassignment surgeries — that go against the provider’s religious or moral beliefs.

This was the second year in a row the VA Southeast Louisiana Healthcare System was recognized by the HRC Foundation for their care for LGBT patients. They provide mental health services, pre and post-surgery care for transgender patients, and offer a transgender support group that meets every Friday, which is coordinated by a licensed clinical worker, among their services for this patient population.The clinical worker, Danielle Rosenfelv started the group about five years ago. At the time, the participants were mostly transgender women older than 50.”Now we serve just as many trans men and people as young as early as in their 20s,” she said. “We have a large population of transgender veterans, and there is a commitment by the VA to serve all of those who have served.”

In 2013, the VA issued a directive to standardize care for LGBT veterans, including creating non-discrimination policies for veterans and their families, creating guidelines for access to care for transgender and intersex veterans and increasing information and training to providers on topics related to LGBT health.

It’s estimated that over 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 transgender people serve in the military today, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.  Ochsner has focused on standardizing training for all employees and establishing non-discrimination policies throughout the system, explained Dr. Brandy Panunti, an endocrinologist at Ochsner who works with transgender patients.

This includes establishing the correct coding when a provider needs to order gender-specific exams (i.e. pelvic exams) so a transgender patient isn’t denied coverage because the needed exam does not match the gender listed on their documents.”How people identify may not be reflected in their legal documents or on their insurance,” Panunti said.In a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender people reported experiencing denial of care because staff were not trained to “code” gender-specific exams.  “Overall, the health system is a slow one, and we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Panunti.

Of the hospitals that did not participate in the Healthcare Equality Index but were scored based on research over the past year, 63 percent have patient non-discrimination policies including both sexual orientation and gender identity, and 53 percent have LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination policies. About 93 percent had equal visitation policies.

This is the third year in a row that CrescentCare received the Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality designation. The federally qualified health center began in 1983 as the NO/AIDS Task Force, a non-profit dedicated to fighting the AIDS epidemic in New Orleans.

“Dignity for patients and employees has always been at the heart of CrescentCare’s mission, going back to our foundation as NO/AIDS Task Force,” said Augustin Correro, a spokesperson for CrescentCare.

“The steps toward inclusion and affirmation are such simple ones to take but are immensely meaningful to so many people. As an organization that wouldn’t exist without the dedication of the LGBT community, we promise to continue showing our dedication every day,” he said.

Source: NOLA.COM

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