Hurricane Katrina Continues To Affect Treatment Services for People Living With HIV/AIDS in New Orleans
Damage caused to the New Orleans health system by hurricane Katrina continues to affect access to physicians, clinics and treatment for HIV-positive people, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. According to the Times-Picayune, resources are "critically low" and local health workers are "struggling to care" for thousands of HIV-positive people who have returned to the area and are trying locate those who are missing. According to Noel Twilbeck, executive director of the NO/AIDS Task Force, about half of the 7,420 HIV-positive people in the area have not been located. "Those that are out of care, that's one of the largest concerns that we have," Twilbeck said, adding, "If people can't get to their prescriptions, they are at risk of the virus possibly mutating and becoming resistant to medication." According to Twilbeck, his organization has seen several HIV-positive people whose conditions have worsened post-Katrina. New Orleans was the state's HIV/AIDS care center prior to hurricane Katrina, and about half of the state's 15,000 HIV-positive residents lived there, the Times-Picayune reports. State and local officials through contact with other HIV/AIDS clinics across the country are trying to find those who have not yet reported to an area HIV/AIDS treatment center, according to the Times-Picayune. The hurricane has affected nearly all of the city's HIV/AIDS treatment centers, including the primary public outpatient clinic at Charity Hospital. Prior to Katrina, the center treated about 3,500 HIV-positive people, according to Beth Scalco, director of the Louisiana Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program. Currently, about 1,200 HIV-positive people are treated at a Charity Hospital outpatient clinic, and less than half of the center's medical staff has returned, the Times-Picayune reports. In addition, most of the satellite clinics and pharmacies that supply antiretroviral drugs in the area are closed, according to the Times-Picayune. "Katrina took its toll on us, and our infrastructure was seriously damaged," Scalco said, adding, "While we're on the road to recovery, we still have a long way to go." According to Scalco, Louisiana is unable to access $22 million in federal funding that has been appropriated to the state for HIV/AIDS treatment and services because the state cannot match the funds, as required by the federal government.
Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Macy's, AIDS Healthcare Foundation Donate Staffed Mobile Medical Unit
The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and Macy's have donated to New Orleans a 37-foot-long mobile medical unit (NO/AIDS Task Force release, 7/11). The so-called "CareVan," which cost $260,000 and is scheduled to begin service on Sept. 1, will provide satellite HIV/AIDS treatment, counseling and testing and will be staffed by a physician, nurse and lab technician, according to the Times-Picayune. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also donated $200,000 toward staffing the CareVan, the Times-Picayune reports. The CareVan "is greatly needed and will allow us to bring our services to the streets and into the community," Twilbeck said, adding, "Our work here is only beginning" (Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7/12).
An interview with Scalco can be found on KFF.org.
More information about health care in the aftermath of Katrina is available at www.kff.org/katrina.