ARCW opens new ‘medical home’ in Madison

Jay Rath, Contributing writer

On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin opened a new full-service center for people with HIV/AIDS on Madison’s east side.

The new center is the product of a collaboration involving ARCW, UW Health and the former AIDS Network, which merged with ARCW about 10 months ago. 

“The main purpose is to make sure that anyone in the Madison area who either has HIV or is at high risk for HIV has a place where they can go and get whatever service they need,” says Dr. Robert Striker, associate professor at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

ARCW refers to its centers as “medical homes,” because of the “integrated, comprehensive model of care we provide,” says Bill Keeton, ARCW’s vice president of government and public relations. The medical homes provide the full array of services needed to properly manage cases of HIV and AIDS. 

“All of our medical, dental, mental health, pharmacy, food pantry, legal, case management and housing services are available under one roof,” Keeton explains. “And all of our staff are talking to one another to ensure our patients are successful in managing their HIV disease.”

ARCW is the state’s largest HIV health care system. It serves nearly 3,000 patients. It’s also a leading provider of prevention and testing services targeting the people most at-risk for HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections.

ARCW’s staff has direct contact with 160,000 clients per year in its Milwaukee, Appleton and Madison centers.

The latest addition to ARCW’s system is at 600 Williamson St. It offers care five days a week to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. The Madison center benefits from a partnership with UW Health, which consists of the academic health care programs at UW-Madison, including: University Hospital and Clinics, the School of Medicine and Public Health, the American Family Children’s Hospital and the Carbone Cancer Center.

“(UW Health) has been involved in community outreach in many ways for a long time,” Striker says. “I think UW Health prides itself specifically on providing great HIV care for 30 years, now. … This is a new way to partner with an organization that shares our goals — making sure that people who need HIV care get it.”

Outreach is more important than ever in controlling the disease, Striker says. “The availability of new prevention tools means that the fight against HIV has to occur in as many different places as possible. Providing it in more locations makes it easier to reach patients who don’t realize that there’s a way to prevent HIV, or who have a hard time accessing that prevention.”

“I’ve been taking care of people with HIV since 1995, and it’s just amazing how much more we can do now to make sure that everyone who has HIV can have a normal productive life,” says Striker. “It’s a great thing to have been involved with, to see how care for HIV patients has gotten so much better.”

ARCW now also offers access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP.

PrEP works by providing HIV-negative individuals who are at high risk for contracting HIV with the same medication used to help HIV-positive individuals successfully minimize the amount of virus they have in their body. PrEP has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing new HIV infections when used correctly. Combined with access to health care, regular testing and other HIV prevention strategies such as condoms, PrEP might represent a game-changing development in the fight to eradicate HIV.

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