The Duke Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research (CHPIR) is one of three collaborators on a new North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services initiative to improve access to information and treatment for people living with HIV in North Carolina. Studies estimate as many as 28,000 North Carolinians are unaware they have HIV.
Funded through a $1 million grant, NC-LINK will link state-level programs for HIV surveillance, testing and care with local public health agencies, community-based organizations and academic institutions. It will use this network to identify persons with HIV and connect them with high-quality, sustained HIV care.
A recent report by CHPIR and Duke AIDS Legal Project found that HIV has reached crisis proportion in the Southeastern United States; and North Carolina is one of eight southern states with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses.
“To remove disparities of accessing care, people with HIV, especially those in the rural areas of North Carolina, we need a coordinated multidisciplinary approach that promotes HIV testing, entry into and retention in quality care,” said Lynne Messer, assistant professor of global health at CHPIR, who leads the effort at Duke.
NC-LINK collaborators also include the NC Communicable Disease Branch, The Center of Infectious Diseases at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest Baptist Health Center, and East Carolina University.
NC-LINK will actively target high-risk populations in an effort to increase the number of people who get tested. It will offer HIV testing in emergency departments and clinics where HIV patients go for care. Patients who test positive for HIV will receive support from a statewide nurse advice hotline and counseling team. NC-LINK will also establish a shared electronic data system and enhanced internet-based prevention services.
The large-scale project will be evaluated locally and nationally, with the hope of testing and expanding this approach of linking and retaining HIV+ individuals in care to other parts of the country.