Free blood screeningsand local checkups will soon be available needy HIV-positive residents of three area counties.
A program now in the final stages of development will provide low-income, uninsured HIV-positive residents of Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties with checkups and other routine health services
Health officials hope the federally funded early intervention program, coordinated locally by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, will ease a long-standing lack of locally available medical care for people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"That complaint is universal. It doesn't matter whether you live in Parsons or Kansas City, there have not been enough doctors willing to treat patients," said Sally Finney-Brazier, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's AIDS program, which is funneling about $110,000 from the federal government to early intervention and primary care programs throughout the state.
When the new program gets under way locally early next year, low-income residents with HIV in the three counties will be eligible for free, initial baseline screenings of blood cell counts and various illnesses, including tuberculosis. They may then be referred to local doctors for routine health services. The doctors can be reimbursed up to $600 a year for each patient.
"For most of the course of the disease, someone with HIV doesn't require specialized care," Finney-Brazier said. "They just need ongoing health assessments."
Patients in the program wouldn't be precluded from participating in experimental drug trials elsewhere, Finney-Brazier said. Many HIV and AIDS patients locally and throughout the nation receive medications through such programs, which in Kansas are based in Wichita and Kansas City.
About 20 doctors in the Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties are expected to enroll in the program, said Kay Kent, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
Meanwhile, the Douglas County AIDS Project, a private, non-profit organization in Lawrence, is coordinating non-medical services, such as financial and transportation assistance, for people with HIV and AIDS in the same three counties.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 13 million men, women and children have been infected with HIV worldwide.
In Douglas County, 44 people have been diagnosed with AIDS and 23 have died since 1981, when KDHE began keeping records.