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City Uprising HIV Outreach Day Promotes Interprofessional Practice and Community Outreach

In response to the 56,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year and in commemoration of National HIV Testing Day, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) participated in a recent event to increase awareness and access to care in Baltimore City.

More than 500 volunteers, including faculty, staff, and students from UMB, offered free HIV testing and comprehensive health services to more than 700 citizens as part of City Uprising HIV Outreach Day, an annual event that is led by the JACQUES Initiative's Project SHALEM - a program of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in partnership with the Gallery Church of Baltimore and HopeSprings .

"In order to address the HIV epidemic and other health disparities in Baltimore, it is crucial that academic medical centers team up with the community," says Derek Spencer, MS, CRNP, executive director of the JACQUES Initiative. "City Uprising HIV Outreach Day is the model for the future to increase access to care and improve health in urban centers across the country."

In 2009, the JACQUES Initiative launched Project SHALEM, which aims to engage the community to address the HIV epidemic. That same year, the Gallery Church asked the JACQUES Initiative to help facilitate a day devoted to HIV testing and linkage to care, as part of a four-day faith-based event dedicated to community service. Since then, Project SHALEM has provided HIV outreach, testing, and linkage to care to more than 10,000 individuals through the work of volunteers and UMB students.

"This year demonstrated the campus' commitment to reaching the community through interprofessional service," says Jamie Mignano, RN, MSN, MPH, program director for development and information dissemination at the JACQUES Initiative. "It's a great community effort where Baltimore benefits from people coming together from all walks of life to meet critical health and psychosocial needs."

In addition to the free HIV services, this year University volunteers facilitated more comprehensive services, which included case management, legal referrals, blood pressure screenings, oral cancer screenings, healthy lifestyle education and planning, and medical reconciliation at four sites across the city: St. Matthew's New Life United Methodist Church in Barclay, Payne Memorial A.M.E. Church in Madison Park, Unity United Methodist Church near Harlem Park, and Esperanza Center in Fells Point.

"This is more than just encouraging people to get tested for HIV or seek HIV treatment," says Alexandra "Allie" Reitz, program coordinator for community and external affairs at the JACQUES Initiative. "It's an opportunity for different disciplines to treat the whole person," she says. "Over 40 percent of people diagnosed with HIV in this country are not linked to care. We have the responsibility and capacity to do just that."

"This is a great opportunity to not only test people, but to educate them," says Hazel Jones-Parker, DNP, FNP, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and volunteer at Payne Memorial church. While screening local citizens for high blood pressure, Jones-Parker also discussed health issues such as hypertension, smoking, and diabetes.

Kelli McCallum, RN, a nurse practitioner student in the School of Nursing, also provided blood pressure screenings at Unity United church. She says she volunteered because "in terms of community, it's important to know they don't always have to come to us. Nurses have to meet people in their element and find out what their needs are. This is why I became a nurse."

Likewise, Micah Bucy, a University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law student, provided legal support to visitors who may have nowhere else to turn. "Many of the people here don't have Internet access so not only can I clarify their most basic questions, but I can provide them with contacts that would otherwise be hard to find," says Bucy.

Kelly Flannery, PhD, RN, University of Maryland School of Nursing assistant professor and volunteer, says an event like this shows how the schools' services are connected and work well together. Nursing students provided clients with blood pressure screenings and education about healthy lifestyles, while law and social work students linked citizens to public health community resources and pharmacy students counseled them on their medications. At Unity United church, Reitz says they "encountered" 200 people alone (not everyone needed testing-some wanted linkage to care). The event also included UMB alumni such as Whitney Burton, MSW '09, MPH '11, Linkage to Care coordinator for the STAR TRACK Adolescent HIV Program at the School of Medicine and Rebecca Bowman-Rivas, MSW '99, law and social work service manager at the Carey School of Law. "The University has a lot of resources," says Bowman-Rivas, who gave away part of her lunch to a homeless person at Unity United church. "It's important to be involved in the community we're working with."

While performing HIV testing at Payne Memorial church, Burton tried to make people feel relaxed. "You want people to feel comfortable with their first test," she says, "in the hopes they will get tested later."

The JACQUES Initiative provides testing year-round to communities across the city. Through a program called Preparing the Future (PTF), students from the University's Graduate School and six professional schools have the opportunity to work as a team to offer HIV testing and linkage to care to Baltimore citizens. PTF already has trained more than 450 students and health care providers. For more information on the program, click here .

"This event is a reminder that we all have to work together to serve the needs of each person," says McCallum.


Ronald Hube contributed to this story.

PHOTO CAPTION: Katherine Gentzel, a nurse practitioner student at the School of Nursing, takes a citizen's blood pressure reading at Unity United Methodist Church (Photo by Cricket Barrazotto).
Posting Date: 07/03/2013
Contact Name: Tracy Gnadinger
Contact Phone: 410-706-7336
Contact Email: tgnadinger@umaryland.edu