Baltimore to Distribute AIDS Drugs to patients in ‘Hardest-Hit’ Neighborhoods
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson plans to launch a new program in September that will use city vans as "mobile pharmacies" to deliver AIDS drugs to patients in the city's "hardest-hit" neighborhoods, the Baltimore Sun reports. The program is aimed at slowing the spread of drug-resistant HIV strains by helping monitor and regulate patients' complicated drug regimens. Before seeking drugs at the mobile pharmacies, patients must first see a health care provider elsewhere and obtain a prescription. Patients receiving medication at the van will be encouraged to take the drugs in the presence of health care workers. This strategy, called "directly observed therapy," also has helped curb the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Baltimore (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 6/8). In addition, patients will receive devices that "beep" to remind them to take their medication (Hotchkin, Associated Press, 6/7). Beilenson expressed concern that drug resistance, which can arise if medicine is taken inconsistently, may reverse any progress made against HIV/AIDS in the region. "In another three or four years, we may be back 20 years when this was a uniformly fatal disease," he said. He also acknowledged the growing complacency surrounding the disease, saying, "It has fallen off the radar screen in the last four or five years, but it remains the number one cause of death in young people in Baltimore." The vans will stop at corners in four Baltimore ZIP codes that have shown the greatest increase in infection rates statewide. The program will be financed through state funding, but health officials say it will require money from additional sources (Baltimore Sun, 6/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.