Imagine Hope Quarterly Report
Updated: Aug 27, 2021
January - March 2021
Savannah Tag Team Boosts Testing
Links 12 HCV-positive Clients to Treatment
"Most of our HCV-positive clients are under 30. It would be heartbreaking if we didn't have the miracle of a cure to offer." Rose Spann
Rose Spann and Sheila Reed Timmons work together to ensure that clients of Recovery Place in Savannah have access to HIV and HCV testing. During the quarter, this duo provided HIV testing to 108 clients and performed 148 HCV tests.
Part of the magic, says Sheila, is the way Rose works with clients. “Rose is not intimidating at all. She has a very calm and loving spirit. When a client comes into her office they can feel it - they know they won't be judged. That's where the rapport starts. And it just builds from that point.”
Rose provides the testing and Sheila works closely with Imagine Hope HCV Linkage Navigator Barbara Taylor-Scott to make sure that HCV/RNA-positive clients receive the medication that they need. This quarter Recovery Place linked 12 clients with chronic Hepatitis C to care.
“I love being able to tell clients that, not only do we test, but we will help connect you with services and get them the medication they need,” says Sheila.
Hepatitis C is the only virus for which there is a cure. Currently, there are 4 medications available, all of which are better than 90% effective. HCV treatment consists of 1 - 3 pills, taken once daily for 8 - 16 weeks. At that point, the virus is no longer detected in their blood. Twelve weeks after completing treatment, clients are tested again to confirm that the virology response is sustained - that there is still no trace of the virus in their blood.
“I've been at this job for going on 12 years and I've seen a lot of trends in substance use,” says Rose. “Most of our HCV-positive clients are under 30. It would be heartbreaking if we didn’t have the miracle of a cure to offer. For these clients, it’s a second chance, a chance for a new beginning.”
McIntosh Team Built on a Bedrock of Caring
"After more than a year, our core group of frontline nurses is still standing. They’re not just resilient; they’re still here. That tells me that I can depend on them. And I believe that we are stronger for having weathered the storm together.” Nikki Smith
McIntosh Trail HIV / HCV Coordinator Nikki Smith (above left) wants to “re-ignite the zeal” her team had for HIV and Hepatitis C testing before COVID. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can recover - how we can adapt to the new normal. The state of emergency has been lifted but there is still so much trepidation and apprehension about opening up entirely. I don't know how we will recover – but I know that we are going to. I can guarantee you that.”
She’s banking on the HIV / HCV testing team at McIntosh Trail. “I feel proud of the people with whom I work. A core group of frontline nurses is still standing. They’re not just resilient; they’re still here. That tells me that I can depend on them. And I believe that we are stronger for having weathered the storm together.”
“I've always had admiration for my fellow nurses, but I have new respect for the McIntosh nurses who have stayed the course through the chaos of this pandemic. So much caring is evident in that choice - they could easily have taken jobs making more money elsewhere but they didn’t. Instead, they found a way: they met in parking lots to give injections, they worked beyond normal clinic hours to meet the needs of individuals, and they ensured continuity of care."
And this quarter, thanks to nurses Stephanie White, Kenya Riley, and Dianna Narbon (above) clients of McIntosh Trail’s 30-day crisis stabilization unit had the opportunity to learn their HIV and HCV status. “I believe in what I do,” says Stephanie. “Everyone needs to be tested for HIV and for HCV; both diseases can be treated, but only if you know your status. It's been said that those of us working in substance use treatment and recovery are in the hope business. Sometimes that means hoping for someone until they can hold their own hope. And finding out that they are free of HIV and HCV can raise a client's hopes. I've seen it happen."
“That’s where the rubber meets the road - between nurse and client. That’s where it all happens. And I am confident that we will continue to find a way to serve our clients.” Nikki Smith
2,087 HIV Tests, 5 New Confirmed HIV+ Diagnoses
During Q1/2021, the Imagine Hope Program screened 2,087 individuals for HIV. Of those, 99.9% received their results. All three newly diagnosed HIV-positive clients were linked to care. This quarter nurses and counselors provided on-going support to 102 HIV+ clients, served 14 new clients who were previously diagnosed HIV+ and re-linked 4 who had fallen out of treatment to medical care.
2,227 HCV Tests, 160 New HCV/RNA+ Diagnoses
During Q1/2021, the Imagine Hope Program screened 2,227 individuals for HCV. Of those, 268 tested HCV Ab+ and 160 were confirmed RNA+ or chronically infected with HCV. During the same period, 123 HCV+ clients took the first step in the linkage continuum when they received liver health/HCV education and 56 were linked and confirmed to have attended their first medical appointment.