World AIDS Day 2017: Increasing Awareness, Providing Education and Improving HIV Outcomes

World AIDS Day 2017: Increasing Awareness, Providing Education and Improving HIV OutcomesBy Tashima Ricks, MSN PHCNS-BC CCHP
Senior Correctional Nurse Specialist

Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day is commemorated on December 1st of every year. As one of the first established global health awareness days, World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for everyone, worldwide, to unite in the fight against HIV, support those who are living with HIV and pause in remembrance of those who have died from an HIV-related illness. World AIDS Day reminds everyone that HIV has not gone away, and of the continued need to increase awareness and improve education.

People who are incarcerated are five times more likely to be living with HIV than people of the same socio-economic background who are not incarcerated. This population also has other social determinants that may prevent favorable HIV health outcomes, such as limited transportation, access to HIV specialty providers, health insurance and medications. When patients are incarcerated, regardless of the duration, Corizon Health is best positioned to improve their health status through the use of the correctional healthcare encounter as an opportunity to increase HIV awareness, provide education and improve HIV outcomes.

In each of our Corizon Health facilities, we have the potential to support the goals of World AIDS Day through direct care delivery or patient advocacy. For our patients, this support begins with the receiving screening and continues through parole or release from custody. Listed below are a few ways we may support the goals of World AIDS Day at each of our sites:

  • During each receiving screening, ask each patient if they know their HIV status, regardless of assumed risk. If they do not know their status, offer HIV testing following your site-specific policy/protocol.
  • If a patient is receiving HIV care in the community, obtain a Release of Information for treatment records prior to incarceration. This may include medication records, laboratory tests and provider treatment notes. Many patients may only have received care from emergency rooms, urgent care facilities or mobile homeless units. As such, be prepared to seek clarification on where prior care may have been received.
  • Follow-up with the provider immediately for missed/absent doses, as well as any delay in the receipt of non-formulary HIV medications. Medication adherence in the patient receiving HIV care is imperative, as poor medication adherence is the major cause of therapeutic failure.
  • Know what medications are classified as HIV medications (i.e., antiretrovirals). Some HIV medications may have food requirements prior to administration that improve tolerability and/or decrease side effects.
  • Ensure the patient is enrolled in the Chronic Care Clinic for HIV Care, with care monitored at a frequency appropriate for the patient’s condition.
  • Ensure there has been an appropriate linkage-to-care with a community agency prior to release from custody. Many jurisdictions allow patients to meet with a case worker from a community agency (i.e., health department) prior to release from the facility. These case workers may assist with provider appointments, medication procurement and other immediate social service needs at the time of release.

For almost 30 years, World AIDS Day has maintained a global impact by supporting those whose lives have been affected by HIV. For many, support may be shown by wearing a red ribbon for HIV awareness on December 1.  However, for Corizon Health, we deliver care and provide this support all year round.