Health

LA Supervisors expand special HIV program

The Gleicher/Chen Health Center in Baldwin Hills offers several services including HIV specialty care.
The Gleicher/Chen Health Center in Baldwin Hills offers several services including HIV specialty care.
Adrian Florido/KPCC

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expanding a program that provides a wide array of services to low-income people with HIV.

On Tuesday, the supervisors voted to spend up to $3 million to expand the program to about 1,300 patients at seven to nine high-volume HIV clinics. Last year, the initiative served 3,096 patients, according to the Department of Public Health’s Division of HIV and STD programs.

Through the Medical Care Coordination program, primary care doctors, nurses and social workers join forces to connect people with HIV with medical care, as well as support with mental health, substance abuse and housing issues.

The program targets HIV-positive people who aren't currently receiving routine medical care, either because they were recently diagnosed or they fell out of care; those who are having trouble adhering to a treatment plan; and those who are at risk of transmitting HIV.

In their motion seeking the additional funds, Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis trumpeted the program's effectiveness: A recent evaluation provided to KPCC by the county finds that the proportion of patients with viral suppression - a very low level of HIV in the blood - improved 100 percent between January 2013 and December 2013. The proportion of patients who remained in care improved 61 percent over that time period.

The expansion, however, won't be enough to meet the needs of everyone who could benefit from the program. The county estimates that nearly 7,000 more people with HIV could benefit from the services. Kuehl hopes to ask the board to further expand the program as soon as next year, a spokeswoman says.