Access and Barriers to HIV Medical Care
Philadelphia is home to many of the best HIV healthcare and HIV-related social services in America! Philadelphia is ranked #15 for best healthcare systems in our country.1 Large and small HIV providers exist in almost every section of the city! American cities vary in quantity and quality of HIV care provision: some may lack adequate access, convenient locations, and culturally competent staff. Regardless of your location, today HIV-related testing, care, and referrals are a keystroke away!
Increasing access to HIV care
While working and advocating in HIV prevention and care, clients and patients often mention their experiences with front line staff, as a key factor for linkage and adherence to HIV care! Many yearn for open-minded, and educated staff that understand their unique challenges related to HIV medical, social, and behavioral care!
Numerous HIV providers and resources
For example, there are over 30 HIV specialists and more than 50 programs for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Philadelphia County alone.2 Philadelphia’s concentration of HIV providers and resources helps to ease a number of perceived and REAL barriers, like transportation, caring staff, access to resources and privacy.
Local HIV service organizations often provide transportation assistance, medical case management, primary or HIV specialty care. MANNA is a local meal delivery provider for individuals with chronic illnesses, that may need nutritional support! MANNA has provided 15 million meals since 1990!3
Linkage to HIV care and viral surpression
Philadelphia leads the nation regarding HIV cure research and clinical trials like HIV vaccine research and extended-release PrEP!4,5 As of 2017, local rates of linkage to HIV care were 86 percent, retention in care continued to lag at 67 percent, and only 56 percent virally suppressed in Philadelphia.6 These stats highlight the continued challenges around linkage, retention, and viral suppression for locals living with HIV.
The importance of removing barriers to HIV care
Many states, like Florida, have seen their waiting lists for HIV medications vanish with medication assistance programs. In 2011, Florida’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list spiked at 3,792 individuals and dropped 89 percent to 427 in 2012; and now, the waiting list has been eliminated!7-9
This drastic drop was the result of increased awareness, advocacy, policy changes, and increased state funding that helped to mitigate and eventually eliminate a major barrier to care, like medication waiting lists!
Challenges in the South and rural areas
The South and rural areas have seen drastic increases in HIV/AIDS rates due to increased risk and transmission via unprotected sexual contact, needle sharing, and challenges from psychosocial emotional factors.10 Increased funding, awareness and reducing stigma are being implemented in these regions to quell potential epidemics in underserved areas.
There are still places that can help
Regardless of funding levels, health insurance access, barriers to care, stigma and psychosocial challenges, local hospitals, ERs and primary care facilities can help anyone with HIV/AIDS start HIV treatment (ART) and receive appropriate referrals for specialized care and services. PLWHA can still get access to care, even if it isn’t the most convenient or culturally sensitive care!
At the end of the day, self-advocacy is key to all medical care and social services! Stand up for your rights and stay focused on optimal health. In many cities, quality HIV care and services are literally at our fingertips! How quickly we address our HIV prevention, care, and adherence is really up to us and our providers. When we are ready, an easily accessible network of HIV care providers is available! Visit AIDSVu for more information!11
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?