In response to the persistent and disproportionate impact of HIV on racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States, last fall the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETC) National Center for HIV Care in Minority Communities (NCHCMC) with the mission of advancing culturally competent, comprehensive, quality HIV care for racial and ethnic minority communities severely impacted by HIV/AIDS.
In May, the AETC NCHCMC announced the selection of 24 diverse community health centers to participate in the HIV in Primary Care Learning Community initiative. Last month representatives from those health centers convened in Washington, DC to launch the project. For two days, participants discussed how best to integrate HIV services into community health centers, and became familiar with the initiative’s innovative curriculum – designed, in part, to support them in becoming a Patient-Centered Medical Home for people living with HIV.
Over the next year, participating health centers will engage in a peer learning community, receive training and technical assistance from expert faculty, and work to integrate HIV prevention and treatment into their primary care services. As a result of participating in this program, these community health centers will enhance their capacity to provide primary medical care to ethnic and racial minority individuals living with, at risk for, or affected by HIV.
The benefits of the HIV in Primary Care Learning Community will not be limited only to the participating health centers and their patients. Through the NCHCMC website , other health centers from across the country can follow the progress of the Learning Community, learn about successful strategies which address multiple health needs, access the most relevant elements of the curriculum, and download tools designed to support the integration of HIV services into community health center settings.
At the learning community launch meeting on June 9, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases at HHS, addressed the attendees. He observed, “What is the role of community health centers in addressing the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy? Simply put, the role of community health centers is critical. We have come to realize that we are reaching the limits of addressing HIV/AIDS solely through categorical approaches. Treating HIV infection is not just a job for Infectious Disease specialists; we need to enlist the skills, compassion and know-how of primary care providers—especially primary care providers who work in community health centers.”
As the newest AETC, the NCHCMC is one of the federal government’s efforts to expand HIV services for racial and ethnic minority communities. By developing the HIV services capacity of health centers not directly funded through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the AETC NCHCMC contributes to the achievement of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s goals of:
- Reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV by building on existing health center testing and screening programs;
- Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV by delivering clinical technical assistance to primary care providers that increases the number and diversity of available providers of clinical care for people living with HIV; and
- Reducing HIV-related health disparities by improving access to HIV care in racial and ethnic minority communities.
The NCHCMC is part of the AIDS Education and Training Center network , which is comprised of 11 regional, five national, and one international AETC, all administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. The AETC NCHCMC is led by HealthHIV in collaboration with the National Association of Community Health Centers and is funded through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and the Minority AIDS Initiative.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or other Federal agencies.