HHS Secretary Announces New HIV/AIDS Initiatives for Patients and Clinicians

Kathleen Sebelius, US Health and Human Services Secretary, announced new initiatives aimed at improving the care of patients with HIV infection.

Washington, DC—In remarks during the opening ceremony at the XIX International AIDS Conference last night, US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced 4 new public-private collaborations to help people living with HIV get care for their illness and to help train clinicians to treat patients with the infection.

The announcement came 3 days after HHS had announced an infusion of nearly $80 million to help low-income patients with the disease obtain medications and care.

One effort, a partnership between HHS and the MAC AIDS Fund, will launch a mobile text-messaging pilot program called UCARE4LIFE to help patients with HIV infection adhere to strict medication regimens and to remain in care for the disease. The program involves developing a message library in English and Spanish for delivering timely reminders for medical appointments and for taking medications as prescribed.

In another initiative intended to help patients adhere to HIV drug regimens and continue receiving care, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will partner with a national pharmacy chain, Walgreens, to learn how pharmacies can play a role in this effort. The project will evaluate how well new collaborative agreements between clinicians and community pharmacists aimed at better drug therapy management and other supportive services achieve these goals and improve outcomes among patients with HIV infection.

HHS is also joining with the 8 largest manufacturers of anti-HIV drugs to create a single application form (a sample form is available at http://hab.hrsa.gov/patientassistance/index.html) for AIDS medications offered through the companies’ patient-assistance programs, said Sebelius. Combination antiretroviral therapy often involves drugs made by different drug companies, and this single form will allow uninsured patients to apply for multiple assistance programs to obtain coverage for an entire course of antiretroviral therapy, regardless of manufacturer.

“This application will make it far easier for patients to get their life-saving drugs, and all 8 companies—Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, Genentech, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, and ViiV—have agreed to begin accepting the form starting September 1,” said Sebelius.

The fourth initiative is a partnership between HHS and Medscape to create new online medical education programs for clinicians to help the latter better understand and address the needs of patients with HIV. So far, 3 new training modules have been created that provide a review of the basics of evaluation, monitoring, and initiating treatment in patients with HIV infection; that explain the benefits of initiating antiretroviral treatment earlier; and that discuss potential barriers which can prevent patients from accessing HIV care and provide information about how to bridge financial barriers to care, particularly under the Affordable Care Act.

“Perhaps the most important principle in our national strategy is one we’ve been reminded of over and over again in our response to HIV/AIDS: none of us can do this alone,” said Sebelius. “That why we’re making a new effort to reach out to community-based organizations, businesses, foundations, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], faith organizations, and more.”

Categories: HIV/AIDS, Infectious Diseases