Alabama Public Health Leaders, Community Focus on Holistic Approach to HIV Epidemic
Alabama is one of seven states with a substantial number of HIV diagnoses in rural areas that are a part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative. CAPT John Oguntomilade, BDS, MPH, PhD, EHE Initiative Coordination Lead for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, recently met with state health officials, community members, and health center leaders in Montgomery to discuss EHE accomplishments and opportunities to optimize the impact of the EHE initiative.
State officials discussed the importance of addressing HIV from a syndemic and holistic approach to address the needs of communities disproportionately impacted with HIV. They highlighted challenges associated with stigma, housing insecurity, and the limited numbers of health professionals to serve rural communities in the state.
CAPT Oguntomilade commended Alabama Health Department leaders for their innovative approaches to mitigate the rural challenges, and their strategic partnership with Five Horizon Health Services and other community partners to expand access to and uptake of health resources in a holistic approach to mitigate health inequities in vulnerable communities.
Innovative Community Services
CAPT Oguntomilade and the Alabama EHE team visited Five Horizons Health ServicesExit Disclaimer, a nonprofit community-based agency that provides services across Alabama. Five Horizons strives to promote a healthy, compassionate, and educated community through medical care, prevention education, supportive services, advocacy, and research. The organization’s original mission was to provide HIV-related outreach and prevention services in west Alabama. Since then, it has expanded to offer services in 53 counties.
“Five Horizons has innovative practices to reach the youth and Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Stillman College, building trust with a syndemic approach to address HIV, mental health, and other conditions,” CAPT Oguntomilade said.
Upon concluding the visit, Scott Harris, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, State Health Officer, said: “It was very nice to have you in Alabama. I really appreciate your efforts on behalf of people living with HIV and for our state.”
Other meeting participants at the Alabama Health Department included Michele Jones, MS, Chief of Staff; Ms. Jora White, MA, HIV Prevention Division Director; Vontrese McGhee, Deputy Director/Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, Director, Office of HIV Prevention and Care; Sharon Jordan, BS, MPH, Director, HIV Office of Prevention and Care; and Jonathan Joseph, EHE Program Coordinator.
About the EHE Initiative
The EHE initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections in the United States by 90% by 2030. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health coordinates EHE across HHS agencies and offices.
EHE’s comprehensive approach focuses resources in the 57 jurisdictions, including Alabama, where they are needed most and strives to meet people where they are with the services they need. The EHE initiative has scaled up four science-based strategies focusing on ending the epidemic: diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond. For each of these strategic pillars, there have been significant strides toward ending the HIV epidemic. Learn more about EHE accomplishments (PDF, 297KB).