HIV Program seeks to meet a need
A diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) now means something completely different from what it did when Americans first heard the word in the 1980s. Previously a death sentence, HIV is now largely a chronic disease that can often be managed with a single daily pill. According to a number of medical experts, individuals with HIV receiving ongoing care now have a life expectancy comparable to the general population.
However, as the virus that causes AIDS, HIV is still serious and life-changing, and the staff at UHS Binghamton Primary Care, at 33 Mitchell Ave. in Binghamton, are skilled in helping new and established patients navigate life after diagnosis.
As the only HIV specialty clinic in the area, the practice has been at the forefront of HIV care in the region since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, and is committed to offering fully integrated, stigma-free HIV primary care.
In addition to general medical treatment for HIV, providers offer case management, retention and adherence counseling, hepatitis C treatment, STD screening and treatment, and substance abuse and mental health treatment and referrals. Staff members are LGBTQ-literate, and knowledgeable about transgender medicine. Providers work collaboratively with community partners such as the Broome County Health Department and the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP).
In Broome, Chenango and Tioga Counties, there are 531 people living with HIV – a prevalence of 189.5 individuals per 100,000 people. (View additional statistics by clicking here.
UHS Binghamton Primary Care provides care to more than half of these individuals. Because the office manages the majority of the region’s HIV patients, the practice is generally notified of a new diagnosis in the area. That way the patient can be linked with care at the office the same day or the next day to begin rapid initiation of HIV medications.
Said HIV Program Director Scott Rosman, “Previously we would wait several weeks for lab results before we would start medications. Now we typically start them the same day as diagnosis to reduce the lag time.”
The standard treatment protocol is anti-retroviral medication, which can be tailored to each patient’s needs based on other medications and potential side effects. “Our goal is for patients to have an undetectable viral load, which allows their immune function to improve and means they cannot transmit the virus to an uninfected partner,” said Mr. Rosman.
Certified as an HIV specialist through the American Academy of HIV Medicine, Mr. Rosman has been with the practice since 2011, and noted: “People who are regularly engaged in care do exceptionally well and can live happy and healthy lives. Many of our patients are married and have children. We also offer PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, and PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis. We understand the urgency and importance of timely appointments and treatment, and make ourselves available to see anyone who needs to be seen either the same day or the next day.”
PrEP, also known by the brand name Truvada, is for individuals who are at ongoing high risk for acquiring HIV. Examples include those who are sexually active and not consistently using condoms without knowing the HIV status of partners, an HIV-negative person in a relationship with an HIV-positive individual, those injecting drugs, or individuals having transactional sex for drugs, money, housing or protection.
PEP is a 28-day emergency anti-retroviral treatment protocol following a possible exposure to HIV. Effectiveness increases the sooner treatment begins (ideally within two hours of exposure), but it can have some efficacy up to 72 hours. To receive PEP, call UHS Binghamton Primary Care at 762-3281, go to a walk-in or emergency department, or present at The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy at 1179 Vestal Ave in Binghamton; the pharmacy has a standing order to dispense seven days of PEP medications and arrange for a follow-up appointment with UHS Binghamton Primary Care for the remaining medication.
The goal of the staff at UHS Binghamton Primary Care is for an individual living with HIV to be able to successfully focus on life and not on a diagnosis. Said Mr. Rosman, “We’re here and ready to guide you through your journey toward good health.”
For more information or to make an appointment, call 762-3281 or on our website here.