Roper St. Francis’ Ryan White Wellness Center is a leader in the fight against HIV/Aids. This blog provides an update on our latest treatments for HIV/AIDS.
Though HIV is rarely headline news anymore, it is still very much a public health concern, especially in the South. Many consider there to be an invisible HIV epidemic in our region, and particularly in South Carolina, which ranks 13th in the nation for prevalence of AIDS cases. Columbia and Charleston both rank in the top 20 for high rates in metropolitan areas nationally. And perhaps most startling, one in five HIV positive (HIV+) people in South Carolina are unaware of their status. That’s right – one in five.
As with any disease, the earlier treatment is begun, the better the outcome, and with HIV, the better the quality of life for the person living with HIV. When adults don’t know their HIV status, they tend to seek care later when they are sicker. HIV is not fatal – there is hope in treatment, and the Roper St. Francis Ryan White program extends this hope by improving access to care.
The Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center is a federally-funded program that provides high quality comprehensive medical care, medical case management and a list of supportive services for adults living with HIV/AIDS in the Tri-county area – all at no cost to the patient. The program has been recognized locally and nationally for providing quality care and innovative programs.
The program serves a diverse population with unique healthcare needs. Nearly 70% of the program’s patients are African American, a community that continues to experience a disproportionate burden of HIV in the South. Many of the Center’s patients have limited access to public transportation, proximate medical providers and other supportive services making living with HIV and other chronic diseases even more burdensome.
To help improve access to care and retention in high quality medical care, the Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center provides a number of coordinated services, including:
- Peer support and navigation
- Clinical case management
- Mental health counseling
- Housing assistance
- Insurance coverage assistance
- Other complimentary services, all part of a convenient, one-stop shop
We are proud to report that more than 95% of our HIV+ patients remain in care, and 87% are virally suppressed. As of 2016, fewer than 9% of Ryan White Wellness Center patients are uninsured.
The HIV world also has a new, groundbreaking prevention tool putting us closer than ever to a cure. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of anti-HIV medication to keep HIV negative people from becoming infected. PrEP has been shown to be safe and 92-99% effective. Much like a birth control pill, a single pill is taken once daily to prevent HIV. The Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center is one of the few medical centers in the Lowcountry to offer PrEP services regardless of insurance status.
The Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center has been invited to other states and conferences across the country to share its success. However, there is still so much work to be done. Your voice and advocacy on behalf of people with HIV will go a long way to ensure continued programs, services and treatments for those who have often been stigmatized and underserved.