Faith Mission’s Health Center Integrates HIV Testing with Primary Care
Saturday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and a new program from Faith Mission’s Health Center is joining health centers nationally in taking steps toward ending the HIV epidemic.
The center offers medical care to people who are homeless, low-income or uninsured. With this new program, many of the free and low-cost services the center provides — including dentistry, optometry, behavioral health and general medicine — can now be paired with HIV testing and other preventive and educational services.
The program is made possible through a two-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency, totaling $251,567.
“One of the major things that this grant focuses on is the integration of HIV prevention and primary care. And one of the reasons for that is to increase access to HIV prevention care, but also reduce stigma surrounding HIV being tested and also receiving that treatment,” said Audrey Knaff, who is the director of the Health Center at Faith Mission.
With this grant, the Health Center at Faith Mission will be able to:
- Integrate HIV and Primary Care services
- Engage new and existing patients to identify those at risk for HIV
- Increase HIV testing, prevention education, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and linkage to HIV treatment
- Enhance and establish partnerships to support PCHP activities
- Increase personnel to support access to and use of PrEP
Knaff also says the grant allows the center to provide this care and medication at lower or no cost.
“It allows us to tap into other community programs that are in place to assist individuals that maybe are uninsured or not eligible for insurance,” she said. “So it is possible that you can receive services for no cost or low cost.”
Those who come in for testing will receive results within minutes, along with information and education, and potentially be linked with treatment and/or PrEP, a medication that protects patients who have tested negative for HIV from becoming infected, to help reduce the risk in the community.
Partnerships with Equitas Health and Columbus Public Health have allowed the health center to better serve at-risk individuals in homeless, uninsured and low-income communities — which are populations the Lutheran Social Services network primarily serves — and identify gaps in their services and help promote this initiative in the community.
“I think, and for me, it’s important for us in general to increase our role in how we help reduce HIV in our community. Franklin County in 2018 accounted for 23% of new [diagnoses] in Ohio,” said Knaff. “So it’s our goal to assist in how we can do our part to prevent new diagnoses and also help individuals who may be at risk, too, for not contracting HIV.”
This week, the Health Center at Faith Mission has been offering patient screenings, HIV testing, PrEP education and linking patients to care and treatment options. That effort will continue, in addition to providing handouts, answering questions and providing pre and post-test counseling for individuals coming into the center.
For more information, visit the Faith Mission website.