New England AIDS Education and Training Center to mentor health professionals, transform clinical practices to improve care for people with HIV/AIDS

November 30, 2015

The New England AIDS Education and Training Center (NEAETC) provides education, skills building and clinical mentoring to help health care providers diagnose and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and to promote prevention strategies. With a new funding cycle come two new projects for NEAETC that involve the creation of specialized training programs for medical students and the transformation of clinical practices to improve HIV/AIDS care.

The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) funding, from Sept. 1, 2015, through June 30, 2019, includes the Interpersonal Education (IPE) Project and Practice Transformation Project (PTP).

For the IPE Project, NEAETC is partnering with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s residency program in conjunction with Fenway Health to create an internal medicine primary training program for physicians, and with the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions for a new Nurse Practitioner training program. The IPE Project incorporates hands-on clinical learning opportunities and provides opportunities for students and faculty to reflect on various learning activities. The IPE project also includes integrated didactic coursework and mentorship. Students who complete the IPE Project are encouraged to obtain HIV-focused professional certification.

“We want to foster the interest and expertise in caring for people who are living with HIV, and focus on attracting and retaining care providers who want to do the work and are committed to doing the work,” said Vanessa Sasso, MSW, senior project director at NEAETC, a program within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division.

NEAETC, established at UMass Medical School in 1988, is one of eight regional education centers, and three national centers, funded by HRSA. The goal of the program is to provide education, skills building and clinical mentoring opportunities for health care providers addressing effective counseling, diagnosis, treatment and care management of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, as well as to promote prevention strategies.

The education and mentorship programs for physicians and nurse practitioners will be all-encompassing, Sasso said, from prevention strategies to diagnosis to care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. The goal is to have the medical and nurse practitioner students who participate in the programs pursue a specialty in HIV care.

“The hope is they would commit their career paths to specifically serving the HIV/AIDS population,” Sasso said.

For PTP, NEAETC will partner with six community health centers in New England, most likely in Connecticut and Massachusetts, to assess how well they’re caring for HIV patients, make a plan to correct the deficits and transform the practices to the ultimate HIV care providers. The goal of the project is to achieve high-functioning organizations with well-informed providers and staff culminating in the delivery of high-quality comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. 

“We will be raising the bar for how they’re caring for people at risk for and living with HIV,” Sasso said.

The backbone for both projects comprises two national strategies for battling HIV, Sasso said. The HIV/AIDS Care Continuum outlines the stages of HIV health care people should receive from the initial diagnosis to the goal of suppressing the virus to a low level in the patient. President Barack Obama’s administration updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July, with goals of reducing new cases of HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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