The San Francisco AIDS Foundation Hepatitis C Wellness Program connects people living with HIV with free hepatitis C treatment; support before, during, and after the treatment process; and empowering education on how to prevent reinfection.
Pierre-Cedric Crouch, PhD, ANP-BC, ACRN: The goal in our community is to end hep C. And we want everyone who is living with hep C to have the opportunity to be cured.
Pauli Gray: Every person who injects drugs who has hep C on average infects 25 other people in two years. So by treating people at needle exchange and treating the active drug users, every time we cure somebody, and we do it we prevent 25 other infections.
Janessa Broussard, RN, MSN, AGNP-C: There are a lot of challenges for individuals to access hepatitis C care. Unfortunately, traditional medical models of health care place a lot of barriers. There is a burden put on the client to prove that they are able to successfully complete medical therapy to cure hep C.
Pierre: We took a lot of lessons that we had learned from HIV and brought them into the world of hep C. we created a rapid testing and treatment model. When you test positive for hep C, we immediately screen you for treatment, if that is what you want to do. We get the lab work back, and you are generally able to start treatment within a week or two from when you were screened. That’s not something that is very common.
Janessa: One of the amazing aspects of our program is that it’s really peer-based and led. People who come in often know one of the staff members or one of our peer navigators. So they feel a comfort level with our program because it’s familiar, it’s family, it’s your community.
Pauli: I created a program that is really participant up. In other words, it’s guided by the needs of the participant. The people. It’s guided by the needs of the people. Not medical system dictating down to the client, or the participant, but doing what the participants say will work. And what will work for them, up. We get people on meds very quickly. We want them feeling better. We get them engaged in our community we built. We have a support group and a treatment group where we do the treatments on Mondays.
Pauli: One thing we do provide for people which is really important is medicine storage. People get their stuff stolen on the street all the time. We created a locker program for people. Where they can store their meds at the 6th Street Harm Reduction Center, and whenever we’re open they can come pick up their meds. And it has really worked well. The main med we use works much better with food. You have to eat just a little bit of food before you take it. We provide snacks the whole time we’re open. We have a breakfast club, where if people come in the morning, you can get a good hot breakfast. And that helps a lot. Once again, it creates care and community with people.
Pierre: The hep C program has been a great success. We have cured 31 people now officially. They were all communities that were actively using substances. Most of them were homeless, they had a lot of challenges and barriers to care. We were able to provide the support that they needed to obtain that cure.
Pauli: I tell each client that we’re partners now. We’re going to do this together. And that really works.
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