University Health System has always played an important role in providing care to those living with HIV/AIDS. Its FFACTS — short for Family-Focused AIDS Clinical Treatment Services — Clinic provides a wide range of services for those in need.
In August 2017, at the request of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, the Health System took over management of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program for Bexar and surrounding counties. Named for an Indiana boy diagnosed with AIDS at age 13, and enacted by Congress in 1990, the program now serves more than half of all people in the nation diagnosed with HIV.
“The goal of the Ryan White program today is to get the majority of people living with HIV in compliance with their medications and visits to the doctor so that they are viral-suppressed to a level less than 200 (copies of the virus per milliliter of blood),” said Dr. Roberto Villarreal, University Health System’s senior vice president for research and information management, and principal investigator for the program. “When patients are at that level, they can lead a normal life and they don’t spread the disease to others.”
Since the Health System took the program over, the percentage of patients at or below 200 copies/ml. has risen from 61 to 79 percent.
And while huge leaps in the effectiveness of antiviral medicines for HIV have transformed it from a fatal disease to a chronic one, it takes a much more comprehensive approach to make sure patients’ lives are stable enough to maintain a treatment regimen — keeping them healthy and the community safer, Dr. Villarreal said.
The Ryan White program is made up of several funds to support treatment. Part A, the biggest part which is allocated to communities, pays for primary medical care and support services for adults. Bexar County had managed the fund until Judge Wolff suggested it made more sense for University Health System to take responsibility for it.
The Health System receives Part B supplemental funding from the state and also applied for Part D funding, which serves women, infants, children and young adults with targeted treatment and services. University Health System now has the largest Part D program in the state.
More recently, Dr. Villarreal sought and won Part F funding, known as Special Projects of National Significance. The Health System is one of only 12 programs in the country to receive these funds which help with housing, employment and patient navigation.
“Our premise was, without housing, without an income, you cannot take care of your health,” Dr. Villarreal said.
Since University Health System took over the Bexar County program, it has increased the number of clinic sites from two to six, making access easier for patients. With a total budget of about $13 million a year, the program contracts with a number of local organizations including CentroMed, CommuniCare, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, the Alamo Area Resource Center and BEAT AIDS.