After living with HIV for decades, declining health prompted Dave to return home to North Carolina to be with family. Suffering from many other non-HIV-related health issues, Dave had been forced to resign from his job because of physical limitations. He began the process of applying for disability benefits shortly before moving to North Carolina, but there was much more to do. Relocation for people living with HIV/AIDS triggers the need to link with a local infectious disease specialist for treatment and to educate themselves about the availability of HIV care, support and services in their new community. This led Dave to Triad Health Project (THP), where he enrolled as a new client in late 2017. His Case Manager Kathryn immediately linked him to HIV care at the Cone Regional Center for Infectious Disease (RCID).
THP partners with the RCID by having a Case Manager on site five days a week to create a one-stop shop for clients, particularly those many clients who face multiple barriers to care, including reliance on public transportation. As a result, clients are able to be seen for medical appointments and meet with their Case Manager in the same visit, enabling them to attend to the many pressing issues associated with their care. For a person living with HIV/AIDS, this could be anything from a referral for mental health services to facilitating their efforts to secure affordable housing.
After linking him with medical care at the RCID, Kathryn furthered assisted Dave by working with his former medical provider to transfer his records to the attorney in North Carolina who was working on Dave’s disability benefits case. Kathryn also made referrals for Dave to obtain food and nutrition services and connected him with New Eyes for the Needy, a nonprofit that provides eyeglasses for people who cannot afford to purchase them. Dave will soon receive eyeglasses free of charge from New Eyes. With the application process already underway for approximately seven months, Dave’s disability case is not even close to being finalized. It could take up to two years for his disability to be approved, leaving him currently without income. In the interim Dave relies on THP to meet basic needs, utilizing THP’s food pantry and hygiene items, and using the monthly bus passes he receives from THP to get to his medical appointments.
With the help of THP staff and services, Dave has been able to find a sense of stability during a very challenging time in his life, and maintain an undetectable viral load. When a person living with HIV has a level of the virus that is undetectable with routine testing, this means the disease is non-transmittable to others and the person is healthier overall. Reducing viral loads by connecting clients to care and helping them overcome barriers to treatment is central to THP’s efforts in the community. Working with more than 550 people like Dave each year, THP helps over 86% of these individuals successfully maintain undetectable viral loads. Compared to the national average for viral load suppression at 57%, the effectiveness of the work that Kathryn and THP’s Case Managers do shines like a beacon in the fight to end the HIV epidemic.