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Upstate receives $1M five-year grant from state Health Department for program to keep vulnerable populations free of HIV

Upstate Medical University has received a five-year $1 million grant from the New York State Department of Health to support its newly-created program —“Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Services for General and HIV Primary Care.”

The goal of the program is to keep vulnerable populations free of HIV. It closely aligns with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Ending the Epidemic Blueprint2” to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in New York State to 750 (from an estimated 3,000) by the end of 2020.

The program is available to healthy, HIV-negative adults and adolescents (aged 13 and over) who are at-risk for HIV and/or sexually transmitted infections (STI). It is available through Upstate’s Immune Health Services (formerly the Designated AIDS Center) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease/Young Adult Specialized Care Center, a program of the Pediatric Designated AIDS Center.

“By offering comprehensive prevention programs to youth and adults at risk for HIV and treatment to those who are living with HIV, we are making great strides towards ending the HIV epidemic,” said Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, MD, medical director for Immune Health Services. Asiago-Reddy provides medical direction for the adults who are seen at the program. “Once an individual knows his or her HIV status, we can help halt the spread of the disease. The services that we offer, such as on-going HIV/STI screenings and health assessments will help to achieve this goal.”

Leonard Weiner, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, provides medical direction for the program’s adolescent population. He says that the program gives clients greater access to medications that are necessary to maintain their health.

“All clients take PrEP, a daily pill called Truvada, to reduce their risk of contracting HIV,” said Weiner. “It has been shown that people who take PrEP regularly drop their risk of getting HIV by greater than 90 percent.” To receive a prescription, individuals first need to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

In addition to using PrEP, taking other steps towards safer sex can further reduce the risk of HIV.

The grant funds a PrEP case manager who works on site with clients, providing assistance in securing insurance coverage and a primary care physician if needed. The case manager also helps clients assess their readiness for PrEP and address any barriers to receiving medical care, help ensure that they are medication compliant, that they have access to necessary medications and provides follow up support during their treatment.

The grant also funds an outreach specialist who provides education on HIV and HIV prevention to providers and consumers in the community. The outreach specialist also reduces and alleviate client/patient stigma through education and awareness programs.

Additional staff includes Kelley Flood, LMSW, who provides program direction for the adult population and Nuala Wheat, LMFT, who offers the same direction for the adolescent/young adult population.

Upstate Medical University and its Upstate University Hospital have a long-standing commitment to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and research. The university was named a Designated AIDS Center by the State Health Department in 1988 and a Pediatric Designated AIDS Center in 1990. The name of the DAC was changed to Immune Health Services in early 2015 to better reflect the scope of services it provides patients. Each year, approximately 1,200 to 1,300 patients receive care at Immune Health Services and approximately 100 patients are seen annually at the Pediatric Designated AIDS Center.

For more information about the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Services for General and HIV Primary Care program, call 315-464-5533 or 315-571-0013.

Caption: Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, MD,  provides medical direction for the adults who are seen at the program. Leonard Weiner, MD, offers the medical direction for the program’s adolescent population.

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