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OVER 450 STAFF AND CAREGIVERS IN 34 LOCATIONS NOW THAT'S HOPE: Bringing Education and Care to Communities That Need it Most.

In the USA, the stigma of HIV and a lack of resources are among the biggest obstacles to getting tested and then, if there is an HIV-positive test result, getting into treatment. "In many places, particularly in the southeast, HIV services are generally offered through one or two private infectious disease physicians or at the health department," said Richard E. Carlisle, president and CEO of CAN Community Health . 'You'll see 20 to 30 people waiting to get in, and if they don't get in that day, they'll have to come back the next day."

Founded by Susan Terry, Dr. Jeffrey Stall and many other key individuals in 1992, CAN Community Health began in a small building in downtown Sarasota, Florida. At that time, there were few medical options for AIDS treatment. People were dying by the thousands. With HIV diagnoses going up and reductions in federal, state and county budgets threatening to reduce the amount and quality of care to those living with HIV, a concerned community stepped in to help the fledging organization, known at the time as the Community AIDS Network. Now, in an era where meds are safer and more effective, countless lives are being saved and people with HIV are living longer and healthier lives. CAN is also treating people with hepatitis C and other STDs as these conditions are approaching epidemic proportions in our area.

Carlisle continued, "You don't hear as much about HIV lately, but the transmission rate of HIV is actually at an all-time high. We want people to understand that this is a significant problem and that everyone should get tested and know their status in an effort to eliminate HIV."

GROWTH & PARTNERSHIPS

Since Carlisle became president and CEO in April 2015, CAN has grown from 34 employees at 10 locations to 235 employees at 34 locations, plus another 9 locations are in development. CAN is also partnering with other organizations that already know their communities and the local patients. 'Through partnerships, CAN brings in medical services and the partners provide additional services, so that everything a patient needs can be provided in one location," Carlisle explained.

CAN GOES MOBILE

Even with the clinic growth, there are rural areas where HIV prevalence is high, and many social, environmental and economic factors converge to cause barriers and challenges that complicate HIV treatment and prevention services. Some overarching factors include poverty, limited resources and structural obstacles that pose challenges to accessing services. Lack of access to services and high turn-over in medical care has been shown to predict poor health outcomes for people living with HIV. To meet these challenges, CAN goes where clients feel most comfortable.

ON THE GO

The concept of using mobile units was born to fill the need of providing mobile health services to both rural and urban populations. Mobile health care has been proven to be efficient, cost effective and versatile (including in instances when a fixed site may be compromised, such as during a natural disaster).

The unique graphics on CAN Community Health's transportation units were intentionally designed to start a conversation about the reasoning behind them, which allows CAN to inform people of our essential mission. The deep red in the color scheme represents a person who has just tested positive for HIV and is feeling overwhelmed by the news. Rough, uneven lines represent the difficult transition a person has from finding out they are HIV-positive to the realization that, with treatment, they can live a full life, demonstrated by the white paint. The black splotches symbolize the difficult times when a patient is undergoing treatment to get their viral load under control.

The CAN Prevention/Education Team uses the mobile units to travel to the most rural areas in the southeast region of the United States providing educational programming to increase community awareness, and to conduct HIV testing, STD and hepatitis C testing and glucose and blood pressure screenings. All these services are provided at no cost to the public.

Soon, CAN'S mobile units will provide HIV and primary medical care, dental services, and telehealth services, which include telepsychiatry and telePrEP. Telehealth uses digital communication technologies to access health care services remotely, making health care accessible to people who live in isolated communities, including medical specialists. CAN plans to take advantage of this technology to provide better care for patients.

THE CAN MISSION TAKES FLIGHT

With CAN now covering about a third of the country, the company looked for a more efficient way to manage the extensive travel by its staff and medical teams. The solution was to buy its own aircraft. The 2008 Beechcraft King Air is a twin-engine, 11 -passenger plane that employees at all levels travel on during the implementation and opening of a clinic, and flies over 45 hours a month.

"Some people might look at the plane and question its feasibility," said Carlisle. "But it's actually a money saver for us. The geographic areas we are serving are smaller towns that are a great distance away from the major air transportation hubs. There is no way we could reach them efficiently using commercial airlines. With all the downtime for people to wait in airports with layovers and delays, we can't afford the cost of flying commercial airlines.

This airplane makes all the difference."

CAN is now looking to expand into additional HIV "Hot Spots" in Jackson, Mississippi; Columbus, Georgia; Morristown, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; and two clinics in Puerto Rico.

Currently CAN serves more than 15,000 patients and provides services to a diverse population based on gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social status. CAN is forever forming new partnerships, establishing new ways to deploy health sen/ices and going where the need is greater than ever. Bringing health services, education and counseling to the people who need it most is the commitment that "drives" CAN'S continuing expansion.

For more information call: (844) 922-7777 or visit us online at: CANCommunityHealth.org

By LORI BABYAK, Marketing Manager, CAN Community Health

Caption: THE UNIQUE GRAPHICS on CAN Community Health's transportation units were designed to start a conversation about our essential mission.
THREE-YEAR UNDUPLICATED PATIENT COUNT

RACE

WHITE                               65%
ASIAN                                1%
AFRICAN AMERICAN                    24%
MULTIPLE RACES                       3%
UNREPORTED                           7%
NATIVE AMERICAN OR ALASKAN NATIVE    0%

GENDER IDENTITY

MALE                                74%
TRANSFEMALE                          1%
FEMALE                              25%
TRANSMALE AND NON-BINARY             0%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Author:Babyak, Lori
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2018
Words:1060
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