New AIDS funding for Downstate

SUNY Downstate's STAR-Special Treatment and Research-Health Center has received three grants that will allow it to expand its HIV services to the community.

To increase HIV screening during pregnancy, the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute awarded STAR $187,500 for the first of a two-year Prenatal-Care Provider Training Project. New York, which leads the nation in the incidence of AIDS among women and children, has set a goal of universal prenatal HIV counseling and testing. And yet, in 1998, only 54 percent of new mothers had been tested recently for HIV.

Under the terms of the grant, SUNY Downstate staff will train prenatal care providers at major hospitals throughout New York State. "Our assistance will be targeted toward improving their ability to provide universal HIV counseling," explains HIV Projects Director Susan Holman, R.N., M.S.

Recent data showing that zidovudine treatment during labor or to the newborn shortly after delivery can reduce perinatal transmission make the screening program extremely important.

"It's exciting that we can reduce perinatal HIV transmission from 25 percent to less than 2 percent with new therapeutic interventions," adds David Odegaard, M.P.H., STAR clinical education coordinator, who designed and planned the project.

A second grant from the AIDS Institute will be used by STAR to educate nonclinical health-care workers in low-income Brooklyn communities about important HIV issues. At four on-site locations serving minority populations, health educators, case managers, and other staff will learn about HIV treatment, substance use, medication adherence, and related topics. SUNY will develop curriculum and provide training for this $30,000 demonstration project.

The third grant, from the Congressional Black Caucus, will fund the Educating People at Risk (EPAR) program. The aim of the program is to identify HIV-positive people of color and reduce their barriers to needed care. After interviewing substance abusers and other potential clients at shelters, drug treatment centers, and on streets, outreach h workers will direct them to appropriate treatment. According to Jack DeHovitz, M.D., director of the HIV Center for Women and Children at SUNY Downstate and principal investigator for these projects, STAR is one of ten New York City agencies to receive Ryan White funds from the Congressional Black Caucus. The New York Academy of Medicine will evaluate the effectiveness of all ten programs.

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