Funded by a federal grant from AIDS United and part of a three-year social innovation cohort research study in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, The Damien Center’s Linkage to Care (L2C) Program is reaching out to individuals living with HIV and connecting them with the care they need to get and stay healthy. Now in its second year of operation, L2C puts The Damien Center at the forefront of a national movement toward eliminating barriers that keep individuals from getting into and staying in care. The main objective of this grant is to decrease the community viral load by increasing successful transition from diagnosis into treatment and providing the intensive support needed to help clients reengage in and maintain in HIV medical care. To be eligible for L2C, clients must be newly diagnosed and assessed by their Care Coordinator as high-risk for not successfully entering HIV medical care or have been out of HIV medical care for a year or more. At this time, L2C is only available in Region 7. Referrals are to be submitted to Abbe Shapiro, Linkage to Care Program Manager, (317) 632-0123 x263 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
By partnering with key agencies in the communities most impacted by HIV, The Damien Center is able to tailor linkage support to clients’ needs in a culturally sensitive manner. Our sub-grantees are Brother’s United, an agency that serves mainly the Black MSM and transgender community; Women in Motion, an agency that serves mainly women of color; and Indiana Latino Institute, an agency that entered the HIV field through this grant with a desire to address the HIV health disparity within their community. L2C Specialists are housed at these community-based offices to help reduce stigma and improve access to care and treatment. The program also employs a youth-focused Linkage Specialist based at The Damien Center. Clients are enrolled in the program for 18 months and work with both an L2C Specialist and a Care Coordinator. In its first year, the program saw a 93% viral load decrease for clients whose lab data was available both at baseline and three to six months post-enrollment. Fifty-eight clients enrolled in the program during its first year. Thus far this program has been highly effective in both making clients healthier and ultimately reducing their risk of transmitting HIV to others, two of the agency’s overall strategic goals.