NYU Lutheran awarded $750k to help HIV patients

New York University (NYU) Lutheran Family Health Centers have received a grant by the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the tune of $757,793 to be used among high HIV patient populations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Flatbush / East Flatbush, Park Slope / Red Hook, Brownsville and Crown Heights.

Over the next several years, NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers said they have been tasked, along with 14 other organizations, with implementing pilot studies to help New York ultimately become an AIDS-free state.

In July 2012, the CDC released data, showing that only one-quarter of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV / AIDS had their virus under control and that only 28 percent of the more than 1 million people living with HIV and AIDS in the U.S. are getting the full benefits of the continuum of care and treatment they need to manage HIV disease and achieve HIV treatment success.

According to CDC findings, the highest rates of HIV diagnoses in 2012 were in Crown Heights / Bed Stuyvesant and in Flatbush / East Flatbush.

Within those two communities, 80 percent of those infected in 2012 were black; while, in Sunset Park, 68 percent were Latino.

“The importance of this initiative is to identify high risk individuals with no ability to access care early on and help them avoid late diagnosis and engage them in programs where they can be helped,” said Dr. Manel Silva, medical director of HIV Network Services.

The news of the grant comes weeks after New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for PrEP Assistance programs, which NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers said they have been implementing.

Because they serve a high HIV patient population, NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers said the Sunset Terrace and Caribbean-American sites will utilize the funds for services among communities of color, youth (18-24), and immigrant groups at high risk of HIV / AIDS and who face many barriers to accessing quality prevention, primary and HIV care.

“This [CDC grant] is a huge initiative for us that will have an impact on the HIV / AIDS epidemic in New York City, especially Brooklyn,” said Evelyn Lopez, site director, Sunset Terrace.

The proposed methods of prevention include hiring trusted patient navigators to provide continuous support to individuals; partnering with grassroots service providers such as Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Turning Point and Mixteca to aid in targeted HIV testing and condom distribution; and establishing a five-session small group for men and women living with HIV/AIDS under the direction of a licensed mental health provider and trained peer.

In addition, NYU Lutheran said it is currently working with Hunter College and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center to offer lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff training.

“The benefits of these initiatives may produce important steps in care for people living with HIV and AIDS including, lowering the amount of virus in the body, thereby keeping a person with HIV healthy for a longer period of time; keeping the virus under control (namely, an “undetectable viral load”); greatly lowering the chances of transmitting HIV to others; and the number of people who progress to having AIDS will reduce,” NYU Lutheran said.

“We want the community to be champions of their health,” Lopez said, “and empower people to make educated decisions, especially on their sexual health. Ultimately, these initiatives will lead to an AIDS free generation.”