Partnership brings life-sustaining HIV treatment to London’s most vulnerable Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day

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Nov. 30, 2016

Access to crucial HIV/AIDS treatment has dramatically improved for marginalized individuals in London’s inner city through a partnership between St. Josephs’ Health Care London and the London InterCommunity Health Centre (LIHC).

Recognizing that many individuals with HIV and hepatitis C have difficulty accessing care or are reluctant to seek treatment at a hospital, St. Joseph’s and LIHC collaborate to provide a clinic twice a month at LIHC where St. Joseph’s specialists, along with the LIHC nursing and social work staff, see patients with HIV.

“Our partnership with LIHC staff has been an example of how well collaboration between organizations can enhance patient care,” says Dr. Michael Silverman, Chair/Chief, Infectious Diseases and Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Care Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “We have been able to get many people on life-sustaining treatment who would otherwise not be followed for their HIV. By treating people you make their virus undetectable, helping the patient and also helping prevent transmission in the community.”

Earlier this year Middlesex London Health Unit officials reported about staggering increases in HIV and hepatitis C in the city in the last 10 years. The partnership between St. Joseph’s and LIHC, called the MyCare program, began two years ago as LIHC frontline staff began to recognize and track increasing rates in new diagnoses of HIV among clients of LIHC’s Health Outreach Program. By working together, St. Joseph’s specialized HIV care is integrated with the case management and primary care provided by LIHC staff , who have a long-term relationship and rapport with the city’s vulnerable HIV patients.

“Our staff are specialized in providing primary care and outreach services to individuals experiencing addiction and homelessness, which created a unique opportunity to provide HIV care where clients are already accessing supports and resources, “ explains Susan Hocking, Director, Client Services at LIHC.

While HIV treatment now allows people to live long, healthy lives, it's difficult to treat HIV when the individual is also battling addiction, poverty and homelessness, says Dr. Silverman. “Many people with HIV have difficulty with transportation, have chaotic lifestyles and are challenged to keep appointments for long-term follow up. Many of the patients we see at LIHC were referred to St. Joseph’s but never came for their appointments. It’s clear having them travel to us is not going to work. As the only HIV care providers in the city, we have to make it available, which means bringing care to individuals where they are.”

The partnership has also strengthened LIHC’s ability to coordinate care for those clients who transition between the community and acute care settings, says Hocking.

“Our clients often experience extreme challenges as they cross the systems of health care. Working with St. Joseph’s Infectious Diseases Care Program allows us to follow the client, provide support and advocate for life changing interventions that can lead to sustainable changes such as substance use management, establishing housing on discharge from hospital, following up on HIV treatment started while in hospital or jail, etc.”

St. Joseph’s and LIHC also partner to provide a weekly hepatitis C clinic at LIHC. Many patients with HIV also have hepatitis C and face the same barriers to care. And Like HIV care, hepatitis C treatment also transforms lives.

For Dr. Kaveri Gupta, an infectious diseases specialist with St. Joseph’s, the opportunity to care for HIV patients at LIHC is gratifying.

“There is a perception that these individuals are not eligible for HIV treatment,” says Dr. Gupta. “Many feel neglected so it is tremendously rewarding to provide care. As well, HIV treatment has had a ripple effect. When an individual feels better, they feel more confident and may seek support for other challenges in their lives.”

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For more information contact:
Dahlia Reich, Communication & Public Affairs 
St. Joseph’s Health Care London 519 646-6100 ext. 65294, pager 10117 
Susan Hocking, Director, Client Services
London InterCommunity Health Centre
519 660-0875 ext. 298

About London InterCommunity Health Centre

The London InterCommunity Health Centre has been a part of London’s Old East community for more than 20 years. We provide health and social services in a welcoming setting to those who experience barriers to care. These barriers may include poverty, homelessness, language or culture, and complex and/or chronic health conditions including mental health and addictions. Our two East London locations offer care by a team which includes family doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, dietitians and community health workers. The health centre offers many programs that address the factors in our living and working lives that impact our health, well-being and ability to reach our potential. These factors include income, education, employment, housing, food, recreation and social supports. Our vision is to build opportunities for healthy and inclusive communities.

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community-based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. For more information, visit www.sjhc.london.on.ca

About St. Joseph’s Infectious Diseases Care Program

St. Joseph’s Health Care London has been treating people with HIV/AIDS since the disease appeared in the mid-1980s. The Infectious Diseases Care Program meets the outpatient needs of HIV-infected and affected populations across the region, providing medical, nursing, social work, pharmacy, and nutrition services. The focus is on both medical and psycho-social aspects of HIV/AIDS. In total, St. Joseph’s currently cares for about 600 patients with HIV/AIDS, from infants to patients in their 80s, and about 350 patients with hepatitis C. The program also provides care for patients with a broad range of other acute and chronic infectious diseases.

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