FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Thomas Pietrogallo, The Poverello Center, Inc.
PHONE: 954-561-3663 x 101
POVERELLO EAT WELL CENTER PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS HELP END HIV TRANSMISSIONS IN BROWARD COUNTY
90% of Program Participants Achieved Viral Suppression in 2019
Wilton Manors, Florida, March 4, 2020 – Ninety Percent of food pantry clients diagnosed with HIV at Poverello’s Eat Well Center have achieved viral suppression. People who participate in The Poverello Center’s programming are eligible to pick up a week’s worth of groceries from among a selection of 112 different nutritionist curated healthy foods. Each year, the center provides participants with 76 different varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Each participant may elect a medically tailored program that fits with recommended dietary guidelines for their co-morbid conditions like Diabetes, Cardiac Artery Disease, Kidney Disease or Cancer. On average, program participants receive 7 weeks of healthy foods through the program.
Food insecurity and nutritional needs are widespread among adults living with HIV (PLWH), and highest among PLWH with multiple complex needs. At the Poverello Center, Inc., 1,943 people living with HIV who live in poverty were seen from March 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020. Among those served, 90% were determined by their lab work to be virally suppressed. For comparison, Broward County 2018 Broward HIV Surveillance Summary reports a viral suppression rate of 66% among those who were in medical care with HIV and the state of Florida a rate of 64%.
Viral suppression occurs when HIV antiretroviral medication is taken as prescribed over time. The amount of HIV found in about a teaspoon full of blood is measured through lab work and if not found, or the numbers are so small they’re unmeasurable, the blood result is undetectable. While antiretroviral medication does not cure HIV, those who are HIV positive and who have undetectable viral loads cannot transmit HIV sexually, effectively ending the chain of transmission in the community.
Research has indicated that Short-term food assistance improves Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) uptake and appointment attendance among those who are food insecure. Those who experience food insecurity are less likely to achieve complete HIV viral suppression and food insecurity is a potential risk factor for incomplete HIV viral suppression in people living with HIV.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) set a target in 2017 for increasing the percentage of persons diagnosed with HIV who are virally suppressed to at least 80% by 2020. The NHAS target for viral suppression is consistent with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets for 2020 which strive for 90% of people living with HIV around the world knowing their status, 90% of people living with HIV who know their status receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90% of people living with HIV who know their status and receiving ART being virally suppressed. The Poverello Eat Well Center clients achieved these goals by the end of February 2020.
The Poverello Center, Inc. was founded in 1987 by Father Bill Collins in response to the AIDS epidemic which locally saw many deaths. The food pantry he founded has grown to include two thrift store locations in Broward, the Eat Well Center (food pantry), the Live Well Center (gym with complimentary services) and a Be Well Program that helps clients live their best lives. The food pantry expanded in 2016 from serving only persons with HIV to serving people with serious chronic illnesses like Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Cancer, and Cardiac Artery Disease with just over 7,000 South Floridians who’ve received services since.
January 10, 2019 The Science is Clear: With HIV, Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. Available 03/04/2020 at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/science-clear-hiv-undetectable-equals-untransmittable
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Community Health Advisory and Information Network Fact Sheet #3 Food and Nutrition Services, HIV Medical Care and Health Outcomes available 03/04/2020 at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/ending_the_epidemic/docs/key_resources/housing_and_supportive_services/chain_factsheet3.pdf
November 15, 2017 On Track But Continued Progress Needed Available 03/04/2020: https://www.hiv.gov/blog/track-continued-progress-needed-hiv-viral-suppression-achieve-our-nation-s-goal