In August, PIH’s Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment (PACT) project received a five-year grant through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the largest funder of HIV/AIDS care in the US.
Every year, the Ryan White Program awards $2.1 billion in federal support to HIV/AIDS programs across the country. Historically, community health worker programs like PACT’s have had difficulty competing for government funding against programs with more traditional, social-worker-based models.
This award, which will provide $600,000 over the grant period, marks the first time the organization has funded a CHW program in Massachusetts.
Working in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, and the Commonwealth Land Trust, PACT will use this funding to continue accompanying Boston’s most vulnerable HIV-positive patients. These patients often suffer from mental illness, substance use, stigma, social isolation, and poverty – all barriers that prevent patients from adhering to treatment.
PACT’s CHWs accompany patients as they reclaim their health, help improve their disease management skills, and become advocates for their patients within the health care system, ensuring their continued adherence.
In addition to the obvious benefits for patients, the Ryan White funding is an encouraging sign for PACT and CHW programs nationwide – programs that often struggle for national recognition and funding.
“For some people CHWs are a confusing category,” said Rachel Weidenfeld, PACT’s HIV program manager. “They’re not just patient navigators, not just interpreters, and not just case managers.
“People don’t always know about the special set of skills that CHWs bring to patient care, and how important they are in helping connect patients with the resources they need,” continued Rachel. “I think that this grant helps legitimize and validate our work, and shows that we really can compete for these dollars.”
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