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Ochsner Baton Rouge Joins Global E f f o r t t o D e t e c t a n d C o m b a t H I V/ A I D S

By Andrea Blumstein

In partnership with Gilead Sciences, Ochsner is ensuring that HIV and HCV screenings are available and accessible

A

lthough the HIV/AIDS epidemic first reached public con-

In 2017, Gilead Sciences launched its COMPASS (COMmitment

sciousness in the United States in the 1980s, the stigmas

to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States)

surrounding the virus still endure today — and resourc-

Initiative, a 10-year, $100 million partnership with community-

es for those affected remain scarce in many areas of the country.

based organizations working to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic

Ochsner Baton Rouge is tackling these healthcare challenges head on, implementing systemic changes that anticipate and respond to longstanding community-wide problems. Almost 20,085 individuals are living with an HIV diagnosis in Louisiana, according to a 2016 report published by AIDSvu — an online resource that transforms HIV data into a visual representation of the epidemic’s impact in the country. Created in partnership with Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, Gilead Sciences, Inc. and the Center for AIDS

in the Southern United States.

We w a n t t o r e d u c e t h e s t i g m a

around these two diseases locally and let patients know that it is treatable, and it is manageable

Research at Emory University, AIDSVu also reports that approximately 3,911 cases of HIV in Louisiana are located in Baton

“When considering where to develop partnerships, we identify

Rouge. In addition, partner site HepVu estimates that 50,700

communities with high prevalence for HIV. Because the surveil-

people in Louisiana are currently living with Hepatitis C (HCV).

lance systems are not as mature for HCV, we look at substitute

As a part of the effort to combat these illnesses — and the

markers, such as the rate of drug use in the area as reported by

social stigmas surrounding them — Ochsner Baton Rouge

drug overdose hospitalizations and deaths. We also determine

secured funding from Gilead Sciences in order to mobilize

prospective community and clinical partners with readiness to

on the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations to

make the systemic change necessary to implement the FOCUS

integrate infectious disease screening into clinical settings.

pillars,” said Sylvia Andrews, a director within the FOCUS program

This will help to normalize and sustain testing for blood-borne

who oversees partnerships within Louisiana and Mississippi.

viruses like HIV and HCV, and it will in turn produce positive outcomes for all Louisianans. “One of our main goals is to do what’s right for the patient,” said Susan Green, Director of the Nursing Unit and Emergency

“In places like Louisiana, even though we have Medicaid expansion, there is still a high number of patients who use emergency care as their primary, or only, source of care,” said Sylvia. In October 2018, Ochsner Baton Rouge submitted a full proposal

Medical Services at Ochsner Baton Rouge. “Undoubtedly, the

to Gilead Sciences FOCUS program1 to routinize HIV and HCV screen-

research was there that a large population exists that either

ing as part of emergency care. They hoped this initiative would iden-

know and are untreated, or don’t know and are untreated —

tify patients earlier in the disease progression and quickly link them

both of whom are spreading the viruses.”

to the first medical appointment following their diagnosis.

Susan collaborated on the screening program with Lauren Sevier, Project Coordinator at Ochsner Baton Rouge. “We want to reduce the stigma around these two diseases locally

“The great thing about this project is how truly collaborative it is,” said Kristin Petry, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Ochsner. The team working on the project

and let patients know that it is treatable, and it is manageable,”

included representatives from across Ochsner Health System,

said Lauren. “Getting them into care and staying there so that they

including the Emergency Department, Information Systems,

are virally suppressed and no longer transmitting is our focus.”

Revenue Cycle and key system leadership. The group worked

1. In the U.S., the FOCUS Program is a public health initiative that enables partners to develop and share best practices in routine blood-borne virus (HIV, HCV, HBV) screening, diagnosis, and linkage to care in accordance with screening guidelines promulgated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and state and local public health departments. FOCUS funding supports HIV, HCV, and HBV screening and linkage to a first medical appointment. FOCUS partners do not use FOCUS awards for activities beyond linkage to a first medical appointment.

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