Grady Memorial Hospital, which sits in a region facing high rates of HIV, is receiving $100,000 to fund two patient navigators to help people with HIV who have fallen out of care get looped back into treatment.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (photo), an Atlanta Democrat and staunch LGBT supporter running for mayor, was joined at Grady by state Rep. Doreen, a Lithonia Democrat, and Sequoia Ayala, a law and policy fellow at SisterLove, to announce the funding on Thursday – which was World AIDS Day.
“HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in this country, it is even more so here in the City of Atlanta. Georgia ranks number five at the rate of new HIV infections, metro Atlanta is number two in the country in new HIV infections,” Fort said.
About 50 HIV-positive people who are being treatment for the disease seek care each month in Grady's emergency room. Factors including homelessness, lack of transportation, mental illness and addiction can make it difficult for them to regularly take the antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV at bay, as well as attend the myriad of doctors appointments required to track and treat the disease. Consistent care for people with HIV – critical in combatting the disease – doesn't always happen, especially for black gay men, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention showed in a study released earlier this year.
Many hospitals – including Grady – often have social workers on staff to help vulnerable patients get support for issues impacting their health and wellness beyond the medical conditions at hand. At Grady, the new funding will provide patient navigators with expertise in the various programs that assist people with HIV and AIDS.
“These patient navigators will be trained specifically in the resources and services that are available for patients with AIDS,” Fort said.
They will also be tasked with home visits, community outreach and engaging a patient’s family in order to improve their engagement with HIV/AIDS treatment, he said.
“On World AIDS Day, I think it is important that the public understand and know that this effort is going on,” Fort said
The Legislative Black Caucus has been working to make HIV/AIDS a legislative priority for state lawmaker, Fort said. He and Carter have been working in the caucus to develop legislative strategies for combatting HIV/AIDS. The $100,000 for the two patient navigators was included in the state budget.
Carter said her family was impacted by HIV some 25 years ago.
“My sister died of AIDS, so my family has been touched directly, leaving a young son. And it’s not only hard on the patient, it’s hard on the family,” Carter said. “We’ll continue to work hard as we prepare to go into this next session.”
The additional funding for Grady comes as Fulton is in the midst of an ambitious plan to eradicate HIV in the county.