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Health Science Center awarded $3 million HRSA grant to increase HIV treatment, resources

Health Science Center awarded $3 million HRSA grant to increase HIV treatment, resources

Health Science Center awarded $3 million HRSA grant to increase HIV treatment, resources
October 14
10:00 2022

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the university’s Health Science Center a $3 million grant to increase the number of capable HIV health providers, according to a press release.

The HIV epidemic first began in 1981, and the Southern United States has seen more cases than any other region in the country due to inadequate access to health care and an increasingly outnumbered provider force.

The grant is set to deliver funding over a 5-year period and will largely focus on implementing the National HIV Curriculum into 22 health profession programs across the South.

Waridibo Allison serves at the HSC in Fort Worth as director of the Center for Health Policy and vice president of health policy. She will be leading the project’s efforts as the principal investigator. Allison knows first-hand how drastic the provider shortage is and cited a recent survey from Oxford University’s Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Of around 5000 clinicians providing routine care, just 28 percent were defined as experienced, and across all counties, there [were] 13.3 HIV providers per 1000 people with HIV, and then further, one percent of counties had no experienced HIV clinicians,” Allison said. “I think that kind of illustrates how much of an issue it is across the South.”

The National HIV Curriculum is an online training platform that was first introduced by the University of Washington. The program offers up-to-date information on the best and most widely utilized practices for treating and preventing HIV. The free educational website receives funding from the HRSA.

“We’re trying to work with program leadership to integrate the HIV e-learning curriculum,” Allison said. “But we’re also trying to provide resources for individual students whose program may not partner with us to integrate the curriculum so that there will still be resources for the individual student that is interested in learning more about HIV.”

In September, the Infectious Diseases Interest Group hosted the AIDS Outreach Center on campus, which offered free testing to students and members of the community.

“Students are really great advocates, and they’re very vocal about what they want to see in their courses,” Allison said. “I think they have a really great voice to be able to speak to their electors and the people that lead their courses.”

Crystal Hodge serves as an assistant professor at the HSC’s College of Pharmacy. She is one of two co-investigators currently working on the project.

Hodge said multiple factors have contributed to the South’s current HIV crisis.

“In the South, in particular, we have had some discrepancies with getting enough primary care,” Hodge said. “We have a lot of rural communities in some areas of the South. We also have concentrations of populations that are immunocompromised, and so, they don’t want to expose themselves. So, we do have a discrepancy of access to care in the South, particularly related to HIV.”

A huge focus of this grant is normalizing the awareness and treatment of HIV so that a larger portion of the provider force is able to adequately treat the virus. By modifying and improving the education on HIV treatment, thousands of students over multiple health profession programs will be better equipped to accomplish just that.

“Texas as a whole is one of the hubs of HIV,” Hodge said. “We do have a larger population that does have HIV or is at risk for HIV. It’s important that we put out more physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners all sorts of health care providers that can help manage HIV medication as well as comorbidities.”

The current initiative by the HSC presents a prideful opportunity for students attending HSC. First-year physician assistant student Ashley Bates said the HIV epidemic has often been overlooked by many.

“I am proud to be part of an institution that’s willing to put time and effort into focusing on historically disregarded conditions like HIV,” Bates said.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Avery Ricco

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