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Innovative Health Care Magazine

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS 112 Innovative Health - Summer 2016 WELLNESS SERVICES OF FLINT There are some subjects which are just difficult to talk about. Politics, religion, racism... these are all things we avoid discussing with our Great Aunt Mildred, or in polite company. But sometimes, our good manners can be a negative thing. Silence can be dangerous. Talking about a taboo subject and bringing awareness to an issue might actually save people’s lives. From the time when it was first clinically observed in the early 1980s, HIV has been one of those forbidden topics. Because it is often associated with risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or IV drug use, there has long been a stigma attached to the disease. People remain ignorant of how HIV is transmitted, how it is treated, and who is affected by it; and so they refuse to get tested or are afraid to reveal an HIV-positive status. Under these circumstances HIV is spread more easily, and many people who are diagnosed with the virus are unable to get the treatment they need. Since 1986, the people at Wellness Services, Inc., of Flint, have been fighting the stigma of HIV here in Genesee County. Their mission is to “assist in the care of individuals who “viral suppression” has been achieved. Studies have shown that patients who maintain an undetectable viral load are healthier than those who have higher levels of HIV in their system. HIV-positive patients who attain and sustain viral suppression are far less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, according to a major study conducted by researchers at University College, London. For these reasons, nonprofits like Flint’s Wellness Services, Inc. (WSI) that protect the health of HIV-positive patients are vital to the overall health of our community. Making sure that people living with HIV/AIDS have access to health care improves their quality of life and allows them to live longer, as well as preventing the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many people who have been diagnosed with HIV have difficulty getting the health care they need. WSI sees a large part of their job as removing those barriers to treatment, whether it is by providing transportation to and from medical appointments, childcare so that a patient can attend a counseling session, or food or housing assistance so that a client eats properly or has a safe place to stay. are infected/affected by HIV/AIDS, and promote education and prevention in the community.” By engaging in outreach, providing education, and insuring access to health care, they are working to protect the health of every citizen, whether or not they are HIV-positive. Over the last 30 years, our society’s understanding of HIV/AIDS has changed, and the ability to treat people living with the disease has improved. After a person first contracts HIV, their “viral load,” or the amount of the virus present in their blood, is very high (typically millions of copies per milliliter). Through the proper use of combined retroviral therapy, a patient’s viral load can be lowered to undetectable levels, at which point /// BY LINDSAY CRAWFORD


Innovative Health Care Magazine
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