East Bay AIDS Center Gets $6 Million to Address Growing Risk of HIV Among Young Men of Color

Posted on Sep 29, 2014

Jeffrey Burack, M.D., M.P.P.

Jeffrey Burack, M.D., M.P.P.

Sutter Health’s East Bay AIDS Center (EBAC) at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is the only Northern California team of investigators to receive a $6 million state-sponsored grant to explore how best to implement an HIV prevention pill among high-risk HIV-uninfected young people.

HIV infection rates are rising, especially among young African-American men who have sex with men, and among other young gay men of color in Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley and other East Bay communities.

“We want to break down barriers preventing young people from seeking help and reduce the impact of HIV on our community,” says Jeffrey Burack, M.D., M.P.P., principal investigator and co-medical director of EBAC. “Through our outreach and education program we want to identify individuals who should be tested and who may not have access to compassionate, non-judgmental sexual health care. If you are HIV negative, we want to help you develop a personalized plan to stay negative. If you are positive, we want to help get you into successful treatment.”

Called the CRUSH Project (Connecting Resources for Urban Sexual Health), the study aims to document the best practices in providing comprehensive sexual health services to high-risk HIV-uninfected young people in the East Bay.

Sexual health services and education for young people are scarce in the East Bay, especially in the LGBTQ communities. There is no city or county supported STI (sexually transmitted infection) clinics as are common in San Francisco. Community clinics treat HIV-positive men, but few reach out to high-risk, HIV-negative 18-29 year old young men.

HIV and its devastation have been with us for more than 30 years. While education and pharmaceuticals have saved lives, and in spite of scores of successes against HIV infection, the disease still takes an enormous toll on young people. Infection rates are on the rise, especially among young African-American men who have sex with men.

One aspect of CRUSH offers participants eligibility to access PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), an HIV prevention pill that has been found to protect uninfected persons against HIV. Taken daily, the FDA approved antiretroviral medication Truvada©, HIV has been found to be nearly 97percent effective in reducing transmission .

The comprehensive program offers a sexual health care plan designed to support clients in their decision making to engage in healthy relationships, sexual happiness and safer sexual decisions. Truvada is an important tool in the ‘tool kit’ for preventing new infections.

CRUSH is also testing a new regimen: a once-a-day pill for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Patients take a fully active HIV regimen for four weeks after a high-risk exposure, to prevent HIV infection.

A secondary strategy called TLC+ (enhanced testing and linkage to care), is also being implemented to CRUSH’s goals to reach and care for both high-risk uninfected and HIV-infected youth.

CRUSH combines the expertise of clinical agencies, health care providers, community based organizations, members of the East Bay LGBTQ community and health researchers working in Alameda and western Contra Costa counties.

The program delivers comprehensive sexual health care tailored to young people of color and their partners – gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, people who are transgender and who have sex with men and the sexual partners of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The CRUSH drop-in clinic offers:

  • STI Testing and Treatment, including routine comprehensive screening, treatment and education for five common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and herpes).
  • Vaccinations for Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus.
  • Specialized HIV Testing that detects infection as early as one week after exposure, results of which are made available online within two weeks.
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency prescription that can help prevent HIV infection when started within 72hours of exposure.
  • Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a newand highly effective HIV prevention strategy that involves taking a daily pill to prevent HIV infection. (PrEP is only available as part of voluntary enrollment in CRUSH research activities.)
  • Linkage to Care, links newly diagnosed HIV+ clients to primary medical care and supportive HIV specialty care. Also attempts to reengage HIV+ clients who have fallen out of care.
  • HIV Treatment, whichinvolves making important decisions about health. Clients can talk to a medical provider about options.

 

Dr. Burack and his skilled team are seeking clients for these important projects and are available to discuss a variety of clinical elements of this local project. Clients in the program are also available to discuss their participation, including those who serve on a Community Advisory Board instrumental in guiding CRUSH.

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