Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

HIV at 40: Erie Family Health Center, focused on helping at-risk communities
by Andrew Davis
2021-06-10

This article shared 3385 times since Thu Jun 10, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects Black communities—with Black gay and bisexual Black men and Black trans women being the most affected population than any other group in the country. More specifically, one in two Black MSM (men who have sex with men) will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, as compared to one in four Latino MSM and one in 11 white MSM.

Recognizing these racial differences, especially among Black communities, Erie Family Health Centers view the HIV epidemic as a social issue as well as a healthcare issue. Among other things, Erie Family has employed the Lending Hands for Life (LHL) program to help those living with HIV/AIDS—or those who are at risk—live healthy lives and reduce the number of transmissions in Chicago..

Windy City Times talked with the center's Dr. Santina Wheat and LHL case manager Christian Biggers about the program and HIV/AIDS, in general.

Windy City Times: I wanted to start with something general. Did you think HIV/AIDS would be around for 40 years—and there would be no cure or vaccine?

Dr. Santina Wheat: I think not. I thought that we would have a vaccine or cure by now. That being said, I have been pleasantly surprised—from my time from medical school until now, caring for patients with HIV—that we have is much better [than before]. It's much more manageable.

I feel like I have conversations with people who say, "It's not like what you saw in the movies, or when we were younger." I do wish we were further along, though, and had a cure or vaccine.

Christian Biggers: I can agree with what Dr. Wheat said. I do know, from stories I've heard from people doing ART [antiretroviral therapy], that what they have today is a lot better than what they had. You don't hear about side effects any more. Then, when you have the time and resources to truly educate people, you can see the difference.

WCT: Have you noticed a more casual attitude about HIV/AIDS, as compared to a few years ago, in part because new treatments are available?

CB: For me, with the clients I encounter, I don't see people have a more nonchalant attitude about it. That's partially due to stigmas. There are more commercials that educate people, but there still are stigmas associated with the virus.

DSW: I would add that when someone is diagnosed, that person takes it very seriously. However, I would say [regarding] my patients who are not living with HIV, I am somewhat surprised that they are a little bit more casual than I would like them to be. I do feel like I've seen a rise in a lack of concern with [HIV-negative] people.

WCT: It's definitely disconcerting that minorities are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

CB: It is pretty sad, just because of the poor access to care, especially in Black and Brown communities.

DSW: The CDC says that one in two Black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed in their lifetime, so it's a huge distinction. It certainly hurts my heart, as a Black woman, to see the differences.

WCT: Stigma and healthcare access are major factors, as you've mentioned. Are there any others that account for the disparities in the numbers?

CB: I would say overall resources, which tie into education and food resources. There are theories that people face that could put them in vulnerable conditions.

DSW: I don't think that it could be said enough that there is systemic racism, and that systemic injustices occur. Those make things much more challenging for some communities than others. And it's just impossible to talk about any sort of health inequity without talking about things like access to healthcare, access to education. Getting information on how to protect one's self is different because of how our society is set up.

WCT: Lending Hands for Life has been around since 1989. What does the program entail?

CB: Our program is actually broken down in various ways. We focus on HIV, hep C and PrEP. I'm able to do the rapid HIV test, so I'm able to educate clients who come in. We can educate on PrEP if they're negative as well as the necessary steps if they are positive—and they should know they're going to have a support system, regardless of the result.

As well as education, outreach is very important, even if the client doesn't belong to one case manager. We want to make sure they know that we care, and that they take their medication and get to their medical appointments as well. We take a deep dive to access any barriers they may face, such as housing disparities; if you're homeless and sleeping on the [subway], the last thing you're going to worry about is your medication—so we try to provide proper resources.

We listen to clients so they feel supported, and sometimes they feel so comfortable they call us to see how we're doing. Sometimes they check on us more than we check on them.

DSW: All of the things Christian said are spot-on. Another aspect is that we are primary care-focused, so when patients or clients come to us I tell them that I can take care of them—and their families. That way, they don't have to feel like they're going someplace different than their friends or families. And we're able to provide care for patients with and without insurance. But I feel the most important thing is that, although HIV is manageable, there are patients with other conditions, such as high blood pressure. This place focuses on their entire health.

WCT: And how has the program had to pivot during the COVID pandemic?

DSW: I think the most obvious way has been with the way we provide care. For patients who did not need to come in, we changed to telehealth; for some of them, that was great because they didn't have to drive for results. Our teams had shifted a little bit: Initially, at some sites we were trying to separate patients who potentially had COVID from those who didn't—but that was earlier; now, we're able to provide more flexibility.

We've really looked at what we're able to do virtually—what doesn't require patients to come in.

CB: To piggyback on what Dr. Wheat said, the telehealth appointments have made things so much easier for clients. Before COVID, it was hard to get certain people in because of their work schedules; the telehealth appointments made things easier. Case managers also were willing to come on site to help clients who had certain needs.

WCT: What do you feel are key similarities between the COVID and HIV/AIDS pandemics?

CB: Touching on what Dr. Wheat said earlier, I'd say racial disparities and racial inequity in healthcare are [common to both]. Looking at the numbers of those who've received the vaccine and the numbers of those with HIV, I'd say there's a correlation.

DSW: I agree. I feel like the COVID pandemic was not as easy to potentially push aside, as the HIV/AIDS pandemic might have been. Because of that, I think we've seen a different groundswell of movement with COVID. You asked me about not having a vaccine for HIV/AIDS—but, on the flip side, how is it that we have a vaccine for COVID already?

I struggle with this one. I agree with Christian in that we've seen the disparities hold true. We've seen some positives, like people coming together to fight COVID.

I think it's interesting how information has changed. We used to say certain things about HIV that we don't now. That evolution is the same with COVID—although, obviously, on a much more rapid basis.

WCT: Also, with HIV/AIDS back in the '80s, there was a much slower reaction. It took [then-President] Ronald Reagan years to even say the word "AIDS."

DSW: Yes—and it was about who it touched [gay men] in the beginning. Of course, COVID hit everybody so quickly.

WCT: Is there anything you wanted to add?

DSW: We're really trying to look at ways to change health inequities. We're trying to make sure we reach everyone. We want everyone to live their healthiest life possible.

CB: I agree. Just seeing how efficiently providers and case managers communicate with one another is just mind-blowing. I was definitely not expecting the relationships to be as strong as they are. You can see the passion people have here when it comes to serving their clients.

For more on Erie Family Health Centers, visit ErieFamilyHealth.org .


This article shared 3385 times since Thu Jun 10, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Monkeypox vaccine events being held Aug. 13-14
2022-08-12
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), along with City Colleges, will be holding monkeypox (MPV) vaccination events. The two events will be held at Malcolm X College on the West Side and Kennedy-King College on ...


Gay News

Young LGBQ adults experience more psychological distress than older LGBQ people
2022-08-11
-- From a Williams Institute press release - A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds younger LGBQ adults are physically healthier but have worse psychological distress than older LGBQ people. Researchers examined a representative sample of LGBQ people ...


Gay News

Howard Brown Health employees win union election
2022-08-11
More than 470 employees at Chicago-based Howard Brown Health clinics, Broadway Youth Center and Brown Elephant retail locations announced Aug. 10 that they have won their union election, with 97% of the votes cast. This is ...


Gay News

Big Cities Health Coalition holds monkeypox virus briefing
2022-08-11
Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) held a virtual monkeypox virus briefing Aug. 10 fthat ocused on local public health activities in Chicago. Speakers included BCHC Executive Director Chrissie Juliano and BCHC member and Chicago Department of ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted hosting monkeypox vaccine clinics
2022-08-10
Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., continues its monkeypox vaccine clinics through August. These clinics are for first-dose vaccinations only. Online registration for each clinic opens at 10 a.m. each Wednesday prior to that respective ...


Gay News

Dance for Life 2022 taking place Aug. 13 at the Auditorium Theatre
2022-08-09
-- From a press release - Chicago Dancers United (CDU), which supports the health and wellness of Chicago's professional dance community, presents seven companies and a world premiere finale for its 31st annual fundraiser, Dance for Life 2022. The event takes place ...


Gay News

Montreal Pride Parade is canceled
2022-08-08
Citing security concerns, the organizers of the Fierte Montreal Pride Parade abruptly canceled the Aug. 7 event at the last minute, The Washington Blade reported. The other events scheduled at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park—T-Dance ...


Gay News

Kinsey Institute exhibiting iconic Tom Fox HIV/AIDS photo series
2022-08-05
An exhibition of 60 iconic photographs documenting Indiana University alumnus Tom Fox's battle with AIDS in the late 1980s will hang in the Grand Hall of Maxwell Hall on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus. "Wild Horse Running: ...


Gay News

CDPH, community partners provide monkeypox update as Market Days nears
2022-08-05
With the event known as Northalsted Market Days happening Aug. 6-7—and with tens of thousands of people expected to attend—the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and community partners held a press conference Aug. 4 about ...


Gay News

Sinema plans to sign on Senate Democrats' climate, health and tax bill
2022-08-05
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) announced Aug. 4 that she will "move forward" with Democrats' massive climate, prescription drug and spending bill, after fellow party members appeared to reach an agreement about her concerns with the ...


Gay News

Cook County Commissioner Morrison calls for hearing to address monkeypox outbreak
2022-08-04
-- From a press release - SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Aug, 4, 2022 —Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison (District 15) has introduced a resolution calling for a public hearing in the Cook County Health and Hospitals Committee that will convene Monday, Aug. 8, ...


Gay News

Judge: W. Va.'s Medicaid program must cover transgender care
2022-08-04
In West Virginia, U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers ruled that the state's Medicaid program must provide coverage for gender-confirming care for transgender residents, ABC News reported. Chambers made the ruling on Aug. 2 in a lawsuit ...


Gay News

The Chicago Sky launch The Net: A Mental Health Initiative
2022-08-03
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (Aug. 3, 2022)—As issues of mental health make headlines in sport—and women's sports in particular—the WNBA championship team Chicago Sky launched "The Net," (A Network of Mental Health Support in ...


Gay News

HRC commends White House Monkeypox (MPV) Coordinator appointments; calls for greater federal response
2022-08-02
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, commended the Biden Administration for appointing Robert Fenton and ...


Gay News

Homeless-services agency Care for Friends temporarily moves to Edgewater
2022-08-02
Care for Friends, a Chicago-based homeless-services program, has temporarily moved to Edgewater after being in Lincoln Park for 54 years, according to a press release. The program is now based at the Church of the Atonement, ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.