In 2007, 1,943 new HIV/AIDS cases were reported in North Carolina. Over recent years, North Carolina has averaged more than 1,900 newly-reported cases annually – a number that has increased since the late 1990s.
Just six years ago, HIV/AIDS patients with little or no insurance had difficulty finding access to quality medical services in Catawba County. Access for them meant driving to Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Asheville, or Raleigh – and if they lacked transportation, it became even more difficult for them to adhere to the treatment plans needed to manage this disease.
In January 2003, ALFA and Catawba Valley Medical Center collaborated on a federal grant (renewed in 2006) to establish the area’s first Ryan White Part C clinic. This comprehensive primary care clinic specializes in the confidential care and treatment of patients with infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, regardless of payor source.
The clinic, which receives patient referrals from physicians and ALFA, is now in its seventh year of operation. It is staffed by an infectious disease physician, two nurse practitioners, a medical social worker, a pharmacist, a dietitian, and support staff. Together with ALFA, the clinic provides HIV/AIDS patients with medical care and testing, transportation services, a support group, case management, and social services. ALFA also provides HIV testing and education services at no charge.
Because it involves medical professionals who have specific knowledge of HIV/AIDS, the clinic offers a comprehensive approach to health care that was previously unavailable to patients. For example, if a clinic patient has a sore throat, he or she can see a clinic physician who is more familiar with how a particular condition, drug, or treatment can affect their overall health.
As of January 31, 2008, 72 percent of ALFA’s clients were also patients at the clinic. “We have a great working partnership with Catawba Valley Medical Center,” said ALFA Executive Director Jennifer Hart-Dockey. “ALFA wouldn’t be here without CVMC. We almost closed our doors in 1996, but at closing time, literally, we received a donation from the medical center that kept our doors open. Since then, we’ve grown to nine staff positions and have expanded to serve eight counties in the area. Catawba Valley Medical Center has played a big part in that success.”
“Having the clinic here in Hickory is crucial for our clients. The proximity, specialization, and quality of care are invaluable. People are living longer, healthier lives because of it.” ~ Mandy Chilton, ALFA Case Management Supervisor