(As published in the Danville Register & Bee, May 9, 2011)

Piedmont Access to Health Services in Danville was chosen as one of 25 community health centers in the nation to develop a model for expanding HIV care through primary care.

Danville is part of a movement that is leading the nation,” said Victor Maldonado, communications manager for HealthHIV.

HealthHIV received a three-year, $2.97 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to serve as the AIDS Education and Training Center’s National Center for HIV Care in Minority Communities. PATHS was chosen to take part in the “2011 HIV in Primary Care Learning Community” program.

The program supports President Barack Obama’s national HIV/AIDS strategy to expand HIV screening, care and treatment in minority communities and to build the HIV primary care work force, address health disparities and improve HIV health outcomes.

Center leaders will go to Washington in early June for orientation and to share their specific needs.

“I think it’s a great honor for our area that we were chosen,” PATHS CEO Kay Crane said.

Additionally, collaborating with HealthHIV expands care for local HIV patients, she said.

PATHS’ Community HIV/AIDS Assistance Program serves 120 HIV patients, with about half of them having an AIDS diagnosis, said program manager Carol Napier.

Since 2006, PATHS has offered HIV care through Ryan White Part B Services, but Napier would like more emphasis on screening and prevention as she and another employee are certified to do HIV testing with rapid results.

With advances in treatment, HIV patients are living long lives with good quality of life. An AIDS diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

Yet, early detection is critical, Napier said.

“It’s a chronic condition now rather than a terminal disease,” Napier said.

The program would help PATHS and other centers train primary care physicians in HIV care so patients have access to holistic care at “medical homes,” much like how PATHS manages chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, she said.

Patients would still continue to see specialists, but integrating HIV care into primary care would remove obstacles, especially as rural areas may not have the infrastructure that cities do, Maldonado said.

This also helps in care coordination, as those testing positive for HIV can then get treatment, care and drug assistance within an organization, he said.

HIV treatment is and can be part of a successful health center,” Maldonado said.

For more information, visit www.NCHCMC.org.

Local HIV statistics

As of December 2010, Danville had 132 people living with HIV, with 55 of them living with AIDS. Pittsylvania County had 95 people living with HIV, with 47 of them living with AIDS.

From January to March this year, the Pittsylvania/Danville Health District had three new cases of HIV and one new diagnosis of AIDS.

Source: Virginia Department of Health