Spotlight on AIDS Project Worcester

There are many benefits of collaborations between libraries and community organizations. With the NLM HIV/AIDS Community Information Outreach Project (ACIOP), the stated goals are:

  • Improve HIV/AIDS health information access for patients, the affected community,
    caregivers, and the public;
  • Provide access to HIV/AIDS health information in a way that is meaningful to the
    target population;
  • Increase the awareness and use of NLM online and mobile HIV/AIDS resources

A benefit experienced by the staff of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), Lamar Soutter Library (LSL) is the knowledge gained about HIV/AIDS while working with AIDS Project Worcester (APW) on ACIOP projects, including the 2017-2018 project, Bringing HIV/AIDS Information to the Heart of the Commonwealth, and the 2018-2019 project, HIV/AIDS Information at the Point of Care. While introducing NLM resources to the staff of APW to meet the goals stated above, LSL staff expanded our understanding of HIV/AIDS, how living with HIV/AIDS has changed since APW began in 1987, and strategies to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).

AIDS Project Worcester was founded in 1987, during the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. APW is a non-profit organization that uses advocacy, education, and collaborative initiatives to enhance the lives and health of people infected with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The organization is a vital resource in the Worcester area for people living with HIV/AIDS. APW provides free, comprehensive and integrated services to support the medical care and service needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS. This improves the lives of individuals infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other STIs by fighting stigma and discrimination, and through individualized services and best practices in a supportive, multicultural setting.

The organization is composed of the Client Services Department and the Prevention and Screening Department. The Client Services Department provides medical case management, housing assistance, transportation, nutrition (including a weekly food pantry), peer support, mental health, and substance abuse counseling to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. APW’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides supportive housing services and financial assistance to eligible HIV-positive individuals and their beneficiaries. The Prevention & Screening Department provides HIV, Hepatitis C, and STI counseling and screening; program outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) populations; facilitates support groups; hosts the City of Worcester’s Syringe Service Program (Needle Exchange); and coordinates the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Naloxone program for Worcester County. APW’s staff reflects the communities it serves: 72% is multicultural, 26% are recovering from drug/alcohol addiction, 24% are living with HIV disease, and 42% identify as GLBT.

For the 2018-2019 ACIOP, LSL is also working with UMass Memorial Healthcare (UMMHC), the clinical partner of the UMMS. Both UMMS and UMMHC have a long history of HIV/AIDS research and clinical care. In the 1980’s, adult and children’s clinics treated patients and performed anonymous testing of those at risk. UMMHC is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS care in Central Massachusetts for adults and children. Services include a full range of primary care, mental health, substance abuse, and women’s health services. Expertise includes caring for pregnant women with HIV/AIDS. UMass Memorial Health Care is the clinical provider for PrEP for HIV/AIDS in Central Massachusetts. In 2018, UMMHC began staffing a clinic at APW once a week.

The collaboration between APW, UMMHC, and the Lamar Soutter Library is a valuable learning experience for everybody involved. We are building relationships and expanding services that will continue beyond the ACIOP contract.

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