In April, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) hosted the HIV Prevention Project Annual Technical Support Conference in Alexandria, VA. The conference brought together HIV Prevention Project grantee organizations--including the New York State Department of Health--as well as representatives from five Title X National Training Centers and OPA, to examine the role of Title X in addressing the HIV epidemic.
OPA’s HIV Integration Project was launched in 2001 with the objective of incorporating HIV testing, counseling, and linkages to care into family planning settings, including opt-out HIV testing, linkage to care, behavioral interventions, condom distribution, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and treatment. The Project seeks to bridge the historical divide between Title X and HIV service delivery settings--a gap that has resulted in missed opportunities for detecting HIV infection among high-risk women, men, and adolescents that enter Title X settings seeking care, specifically racial/ethnic minorities and low-income individuals. OPA makes this funding stream (from the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund) available to support 18 agencies in 16 States due to the fact that family planning agencies that do not successfully integrate HIV services generally fail to do so because of financial constraints.
We sat down with Tegan Culler, Deputy Director for the Title X National Training Center for Coordination and Strategic Initiative, a project of CAI, to discuss the event and where New York State fit in. Culler described the overall goal of the conference as to build attendees' capacity to sustain critical project activities despite shifts in the health care financing landscape, as well as to deliver tools and resources that will support grantees in their work to scale-up sub-recipient agencies' current integration efforts. As it was a working meeting, each agency team worked to develop an action plan for improving integration of these services into care delivery within their networks.
Two New York State grantees were present at the conference: the New York State Department of Health and Public Health Solutions, which together fund 7 sub-recipient agencies. Culler described how these sub-recipient agencies are in a different position than their counterparts in other States due to the unique policy on HIV testing in New York State. In the rest of the country, it is a best practice recommendation that hospitals and primary care settings offer HIV testing to all persons between 13 and 64 years. In New York, however, State law requires that hospitals and primary care settings offer testing, even in the lower prevalence areas. This requirement is underpinned by a supportive policy infrastructure. In fact, just this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an initiative to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020 by prioritizing identifying undiagnosed persons, prevention of new transmissions, and linkages to and retention of patients in care.
As a follow-up to the conference, the National Training Centers will be developing a series of trainings, webinars, and online learning tools to assist grantees to work with their sub-recipient agencies in carrying-out action plan items, as well as to facilitate learning from one another. Through these continued efforts, the Title X network can remain a critical player in detecting HIV infection among the most vulnerable populations.