HIV/AIDS is considered the most significant and devastating public health issue of our time.
In the 1980s, HIV was an obscure virus with no treatment available to those infected, but HIV care and treatment have undergone significant changes. Now, persons with HIV have access to effective treatments. However, more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and this number grows by about 50,000 each year.
The Department of Health and Human Services began to provide funding for the AETCs in 1988. The AIDS Education and Training Centers are administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau, Division of Training and Technical Assistance. The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center is part of a network of 8 regional AIDS Education & Training Centers and 3 national centers across the US including Puerto Rico and US territories. Federal funding for the AETCs is part of the Ryan White Care Act that was enacted in 1991 to fund services for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
The activities of the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center continue to be aimed at reaching the goals set forth in the guidance for this 5 year cycle as well as meeting the aims of the National AIDS Strategy, HIV/AIDS Bureau priorities and responding to the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the treatment and care of persons living with HIV.
Considerable effort has been aimed at reaching not only Ryan White providers but those providers within settings not receiving Ryan White funding, such as community health centers, hospitals, and other agencies and programs serving minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised. These are challenging times for health care in general, and HIV and related clinical issues, and those individuals infected as well as their family, and networks.
Our AETC has a history of remarkable nimble response to the changing needs of persons with HIV and for the health care professionals and clinical team that provides prevention, treatment, and care for persons with HIV within our region. This has been part of the ongoing discussion on our consortium conference calls, meetings in revising approaches and identifying important public health issues related to HIV that need to be addressed by the AETC. Our RP directors are networked with local, state, and community leaders and users of HIV services to gain specific information about how the AETC can improve access and quality of HIV care.
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) brings opportunities and challenges for health care providers. More health care clinics and systems will be asked to provide prevention and treatment services for people living with and at risk for HIV infection. However, many of these clinicians are not prepared to provide current prevention and treatment.
With the influx of new patients, more clinicians are needed to provide competent, front-line, primary care services to PLWH. The success of antiretroviral therapy (ART), prevention of opportunistic infections, and related co-morbidities which has led to PLWH living longer but facing a growing number of complications and co-morbidities as they age, making their care more complicated. Furthermore, the goal to scale up HIV testing and linkage to care and implement high impact prevention requires an engaged primary care system.
Health professionals on the front lines of HIV prevention, treatment, and care face many challenges:
(1) a patient population that is disproportionately poor but in need of sophisticated and rapidly evolving treatment regimens;
(2) a shortage of qualified caregivers, particularly in rural and urban areas;
(3) a complex health care delivery system; and
(4) changing treatment and prevention guidelines and standards of care.
The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center has evolved and expanded to provide training, consultation, and technical assistance to individual health professionals, federally qualified health centers, hospitals, clinics, and health care agencies and programs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
In the process, the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center has built a reputation as the foremost educational resource for providing primary care providers and HIV medical specialists with the tools they need. Whether it be case finding HIV (screening, counseling, and testing); clinical care (including the co-morbidities of sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and complications of HIV/AIDS); or prevention interventions, medical caregivers in the region rely on the MidAtlantic AETC for state-of-the-art information, skill building, and consultation.
Through intensive, interactive training methods and innovative programming, the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center’s dedicated clinical educators shape, improve, and change the practices, attitudes, and behaviors of health care providers.
Because of the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center’s efforts, healthy people are avoiding infection, and what was formerly deemed a fatal illness is now considered a chronic, manageable condition. Furthermore, a growing number of HIV-infected persons who were once thought to be difficult to reach now receive quality medical care and education on how not to spread the disease. The educational programs of the MidAtlantic AETC aid lawmakers in establishing public health policies, using the soundest scientific and clinical research available.
Thanks to significant in-kind contributions from leading medical centers in the cities in which the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center is based, this network creates a cost-effective, state-of-the-art approach to the training needed to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. These powerhouse academic and research facilities—among the best in the country—supply renowned faculty and researchers, space, equipment, and administrative support services.
The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center recognizes the dedication and hard work of providers in underserved populations. From lack of care access to difficult legal and financial circumstances to language barriers, the MidAtlantic AETC appreciates the diverse challenges that underserved communities encounter on a daily basis. Limited access to health care and strained financial circumstances result in clinic populations that are characteristically sicker, poorer, and more reliant on public programs.
Creating innovative ways of diminishing these significant barriers to effective HIV prevention, care, and treatment is indeed a challenge. The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center is committed to overcoming these challenges as it collaborates with providers in these communities for joint program planning and solution development.
Ryan White CARE Act clinics and programs, community and migrant health centers, and other federally funded programs constitute the primary target audience of the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center. Through regional cluster training, the MidAtlantic AETC benefits rural and urban areas by creating a network of experts, collaborators, and partners to ensure that training interventions meet the needs of providers and build capacity to improve systems of care. Similar training also helps programs serving the homeless, minorities, migrant workers, immigrants, and the uninsured.
Continuing education credits are offered to participants at all sites. Among the organizations providing credit are the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, and the American Dental Association.