MidAtlantic AIDS Education & Training Center Receives $ 14.2 Million To Extend Efforts Through 2024

When Dr Linda Rose Frank thinks of the HIV epidemic, the virus that causes AIDS is not the only disease she thinks of.

Not by far.

“You can’t just talk about HIV – you can’t separate it from hepatitis C, substance use disorders and the myriad of other illnesses spread through sexual contact or drug use. intravenously, ”said Frank, professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. “It is so essential that all clinicians know that if their patient suffers from any of these conditions or engages in risky behaviors that increase the chances of contracting them, they, along with other members of the treatment team, should be on the lookout for all these diseases.

Frank is the principal investigator of the MidAtlantic Center for AIDS Education and Training (MAAETC), which has served the MidAtlantic region since 1988 and recently received $ 14.2 million from Ministry of Health and Social ServicesHealth Resources and Services Administration, HIV / AIDS Office continue the work of the center for the next five years.

It is one of eight regional centers nationwide and covers Pennsylvania, West Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, with a consortium of universities and clinical partners in those states that work together to train primary care and HIV care teams within hospitals, clinics and community to provide coordinated care to improve health outcomes for people living with HIV and those at risk.

“The MidAtlantic is part of the Appalachians, which has been hit hard by poverty and the lack of resources, jobs and health services,” Frank said. “This makes our focus on increasing knowledge and skills in rural clinics in our region particularly important and a major and continuing focus of our work going forward. “

MAAETC helps build capacity within health facilities and clinics to improve service delivery, quality of delivery of HIV prevention, treatment and care. It also guides providers in collaborative approaches with other agencies and in accessing additional funds and resources to expand and improve services in urban and rural areas so that they can better provide care at home. their communities.

An important part of the center is training the next generation of people who work in HIV prevention and treatment. The center embodies this by employing graduate public health students and encouraging them to apply for jobs after graduation.

“It fit perfectly with my interests and strengths,” said Marilyn Blasingame, MPH, a former public health student from Pitt who has worked with the center for the past three years, currently as an HIV educator. and training coordinator. “Affecting the ability of health professionals to provide the highest standards of care to their communities is crucial to ending the HIV epidemic. “

Ingrid Godfrey, MPH, held a full-time position at the center earlier this year as a distance learning specialist. “The easiest way to distribute information today is through technology,” Godfrey said. “Because MidAtlantic has a particular need in rural areas, we have found that telecommunications can provide a huge benefit to rural health clinics and create training opportunities that would not otherwise exist. “

Frank pointed out that in addition to improving the capacity for care in rural areas, the center is also focusing on improving access to HIV testing and prevention.

“We now have the tools to end this epidemic,” she said. “We still need to work every day to reduce the continuing stigma associated with HIV, substance use, mental illness and sexually transmitted infections. “

The MAAETC also encourages discussion of stigma as a barrier – a major barrier to ending the epidemic – for people with access to prevention and treatment.

“Just like everyone knows their blood pressure or cholesterol, they should know their HIV status,” Frank said. “This is the first step in reducing stigma and normalizing HIV testing. This is essential so that people with HIV can be immediately linked to care and begin drug treatment. It saves the life of the infected person and has been shown to prevent the transmission of HIV to others when the HIV positive person takes antiretroviral drugs. Training and education of healthcare professionals from all disciplines is important to ending the epidemic and the MAAETC is essential to achieving this in the MidAtlantic region. “

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