Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital uses interactive technology and innovation to raise HIV awareness

Dr. Jason Leider, adult HIV medical director at Jacobi Medical Center.
Photo courtesy of Jacobi Medical Center

Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital continues to use interactive technology in a sustained, coordinated effort to promote HIV prevention and awareness.

The medical center has reached a milestone of 120,000 people being tested through rapid testing, an HIV test that can produce results about 20 minutes, since it started its large, coordinated testing effort called Project B.R.I.E.F., according to hospital officials.

It is also fully implementing relatively new methods of protecting people who are at high risk of infection, unwittingly or not, to HIV, officials said.

Project B.R.I.E.F. was started in 2002 by Dr. Yvette Calderon and Dr. Jason Leider, who have both risen through the ranks of the North Bronx Health Network, which runs Jacobi and NCBH, since founding the program that diagnoses the virus that causes AIDS as resident physicians.

Project B.R.I.E.F. stands for behavior intervention, rapid HIV test, innovative video, efficient cost and health care savings, and facilitated seamless linkage to outpatient HIV care, according to a spokesman.

The project seeks to handle illiteracy that often serves as a barrier to medical treatment, including HIV testing and prevention, said the doctor. A state law that requires a signed consent to test for HIV also can sometimes complicate getting people tested.

“We have to convey the importance of being tested and the importance of coming for healthcare to many people who have difficulty in reading the written word,” said Dr. Leider, Jacobi’s adult HIV medical director.

He explained the program uses interactive technology like video in English and Spanish to reach a clientele that sometimes cannot read well, with the doctor citing county health rankings that show more than 40% of borough adults may be illiterate, not able to read at an eighth grade level.

Project B.R.I.E.F. seeks to utilize all NCBH’s departments, including pharmacies, dental offices, and emergency departments to encourage people to be rapid tested and to learn more about HIV using interactive technology, he said.

About 90% of the people who do test HIV positive, there are about 25,000 to 30,000 estimated people in the borough who have HIV or AIDS, accept treatment, said Dr. Leider.

The doctor said treatment is sometimes free and often can prevent ‘opportunistic’ infections that can arise from having a weak immune system.

The doctor said that with Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s ‘#Not62’ initiative working to raise health outcomes, preventing HIV infections need to be a key component.

“The HIV diagnoses and deaths from AIDS is one of the things that keeps the Bronx in last place,” said the doctor, referring to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation annual survey that showed the Bronx in last place out the New York State’s 62 counties in overall health for several years.

In addition to the 120,000 people who have been tested, NCBH is also making full use of new treatments including pre-exposure and post-exposure Prophylaxis, pills that people can take when they are at a high-risk for HIV infection either before or after possible exposure to the virus, according to Dr. Leider and a Jacobi spokesman.

Treatments like Post-exposure Prophylaxis are useful for people who may have had unwanted exposure to HIV, said Dr. Leider.

This could be for police officers that may have been bitten by a suspect who could be HIV positive, or emergency medical technicians or civilians who are accidently pricked by a needle, explained the doctor.

It can also be used to prevent infection shortly after someone has sex with an HIV-effected partner without protection, or when a condom breaks, the doctor said.

If you would like an HIV rapid test, just go to the Jacobi or NCBH emergency department, said a hospital spokesman.

Hospital officials also stated HIV is at epidemic proportions among black and Latino gay men, and they cited a recent medical study showing 50% and 25% respectively will be HIV infected at some time in their lives.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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