The Kent County Health Department is planning to expand a program that serves people with HIV and AIDS.
The department plans to add early intervention services and develop a comprehensive HIV care continuum, from initial diagnosis to viral load suppression and an improved quality of life.
“The use of early intervention services has been proven very effective toward HIV prevention and treatment because it helps remove barriers that many clients face when it comes to HIV treatment,” said Christopher Bendekgey, Kent County Community Clinical Services division director.
The county’s existing services in this area include HIV testing and counseling. Existing services also include providing prevention education and risk-reduction classes to clients determined to be at higher risk, such as those at homeless shelters and juvenile detention.
The prevalence of HIV in Kent County continues to grow, Bendekgey said.
On Jan. 1, 2018, there were an estimated 1,170 people living with HIV/AIDS in Kent County, a rate of 156.6 per 100,000 people.
The number of new individuals testing positive for HIV in Kent County also is on the rise, he said. In 2017, Kent County had 47 newly diagnosed cases of HIV, an increase of four cases from 2016.
Kent County has approximately 128 individuals on record as having tested positive for HIV but who are not receiving treatment or follow-up care.
For the expanded program, the department plans to create a full-time public health nurse position with a salary of $85,796 and a full-time outreach worker position with a salary of $64,923.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recently selected the Kent County program as a recipient of Ryan White funding to expand its HIV/AIDS services.
The $212,790 provided by the Ryan White grant will cover all of the costs associated with the new positions.
It is expected the grant will be renewed for a minimum of three years.