Wednesday, October 17, 2012 —
RALEIGH – North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Al Delia recently announced that DHHS is the recipient of a three-year federal grant for $5.6 million to support new programs for people with HIV disease. A percentage of the money will be used to engage community based organizations and support activities designed to encourage more HIV testing for at-risk populations and link HIV positive patients into care.
The award was made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the new Care and Prevention in the U.S. (CAPUS) demonstration project. North Carolina is one of only eight states chosen to receive the federal funding.
The DHHS proposed initiatives are designed to engage community health care providers and increase HIV testing among those who may not realize they are at-risk for the disease. The efforts will also help ensure that patients who already have the disease will have access to better and continued care. DHHS hopes to increase the use of data sharing by health care providers, place patient advocates in communities to help people navigate their health care option and increase tele-medicine options to rural areas of the state. The project also aims to educate providers about cultural and social barriers that may discourage testing and treatment and to reach out through community channels to normalize HIV testing and care.
“We have made tremendous progress in increasing testing rates and getting people into treatment in North Carolina,” Delia said.
“In fact, rates of new HIV cases are lower than they have been in recent years. But we know there are still many people who do not know their HIV status. This grant provides additional resources to serve hard to reach populations and ultimately help slow the spread of this disease.”
“The incidence of HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and throughout the south is staggering,” said U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
“That’s why I convened a roundtable of experts and community leaders this summer in Washington, D.C. to develop new approaches to address this dire problem for our state and region. I’m pleased that new federal resources will be dedicated to increasing HIV testing, expanding specialty care and educating at-risk North Carolinians about preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. The Department’s targeted programs will allow us to take on each of these challenges directly and forcefully.”
A 2011 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that treating HIV-infected individuals with antiretroviral therapy when their immune systems are still relatively healthy leads to a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission to their partners.
The study suggests that early treatment of infected individuals can have a major impact on the spread of HIV disease. DHHS announced in August that federal funding for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or ADAP, had alleviated the waiting list and allowed nearly 300 more people to receive help.
North Carolina’s expanded and targeted HIV testing efforts since 2006, coupled with enhanced linkage and care, contributed to an 18 percent decline in new HIV cases since 2008, the peak for this decade. The total number of new HIV diagnoses statewide fell from 1,812 in 2008 to 1,487 in 2010.