Chicago’s new HIV primary care services finalized

By Ruojing Liu

The Chicago Department of Public Health finalized deals Thursday with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Howard Brown Health to transfer and expand the city’s HIV primary care services.

The deals include transferring two currently city-run HIV primary care clinics at 845 W. Wilson Ave. in Uptown and at 641 W. 63rd Street in Englewood to the management of UIC and Howard Brown Health respectively. The deal also includes expanding the primary care services for HIV-positive residents at UIC’s existing clinics in South Chicago and Humboldt Park.

“Chicago continues to make real progress in our fight against HIV and STIs because of a coordinated, comprehensive network of community providers that offer high-quality services to residents living with HIV,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a press release. “By working directly with these partners, we will deliver critical care to assist our residents in living long and healthy lives.”

The privatization was part of the Mayor’s plan in the 2016 budget where he pledged expanding primary care health services to 2,000 low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The quest for qualified providers started last year on December 1.

According to numbers provided in a document released by the CDPH, the annual operating budget for the two HIV primary care clinics is about $1.5 million. In 2014, those two clinics completed a total of 1,624 medical visits with 502 unduplicated patients.

After the city relinquishes management of the current two sites and expands services through an agreement with UIC to the two new sites, CDPH’s estimate of the annual expenditure on HIV primary care services will drop to $857,920, and the money would be focused on funding to provide care for the uninsured. CDPH said the savings will be reinvested to expand support services including case management for residents living with HIV. The expansion would also allow an increase in the city’s capacity of HIV primary care services to an additional 800 patients.

The major concern of the transition would be for the patients. If they want to continue to enjoy services at their current locations, they would have to see new doctors. And there have been concerns about job losses and access to quality care from the union that represents current employees at the clinics.

“As we work to expand care, we will ensure a seamless transition for residents who have come to rely on these critical services,” said CDPH Commissioner, Julie Morita, M.D. “By working together, we increase the capacity of our community partners and expand access to care for more residents.”

CDPH states in a press release that “providers have submitted thorough transition plans and will continue to operate at City clinics, ensuring that existing clients can continue receiving services at the locations they currently visit.” The Department also states it will work closely with clients and the two newly-selected partners during the transition.

“As a native of Chicago’s South Side, I’m proud to lead Howard Brown Health’s expansion of full-spectrum healthcare services to an area of the city that needs it,” said Dr. Maya Green, the newly appointed medical director for Howard Brown Health’s Englewood site. “Englewood, just like Howard Brown’s other clinic neighborhoods, has specific challenges and needs, and we look forward to addressing them with care.

Dr. Richard Novak, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UIC’s Department of Medicine, was said to be supervising the Uptown clinic. He also serves as the director of the UIC’s HIV Community Clinic Network.

The transition is proposed to start in May, and the two new medical hosts will begin outreaching to patients in the upcoming days.

In addition to offering HIV primary care services, both partners will launch new early intervention services, linking and retaining current patients as well as linking those newly diagnosed to medical care, said CDPH.

According to Erik Roldan, communications manager at Howard Brown Health, its Englewood site, after the take-over, will expand its current HIV-only service to address healthcare services including weight management, diabetes, HIV & STIs, healthy lifestyle consultation, cholesterol management, and hypertension. The Englewood building will remain a CDPH facility housing a city-run STI screening clinic, another family medicine clinic and a free clinic in addition to Howard Brown.

Photo at top: The current city-run HIV primary care clinic in Uptown will be transferred to the management of the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Ruojing Liu/MEDILL)