Specialized Pharmacy Services for HIV
Over the past 40 years, since the first handful of cases of AIDS were reported, the treatment of HIV has changed dramatically. Initially a death sentence, and later treated with multiple medications, today HIV can be nearly eradicated from the patient’s body with one daily pill.
Yet for many people living with HIV today, there remain barriers to starting – and sticking with – treatment: lack of information, access to care, financial and transportation issues, and stigma.
Specialized pharmacy care that is closely integrated with the patient’s health care team can be an important step towards lasting, effective treatment – and toward ending the HIV epidemic.
In 2021, Genoa Healthcare opened three pharmacies serving the needs of people living with HIV in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Dallas.
The pharmacies deliver the same kind of hands-on, compassionate and specialized care that Genoa employs at its 600 behavioral health pharmacies, said Christy Barr, senior vice president of pharmacy operations.
Serving Those with HIV
“Most of the people we serve in our HIV sites have to manage complex medication regimens, and many also face stigma due to their illness,” Barr said, noting that at least 20% of HIV patients are also diagnosed with a mental illness. “With our hands-on, specialized and compassionate approach to pharmacy care, Genoa can make a difference in their lives.”
Genoa remembers those who have died of AIDS, expresses support for those living with HIV, and commits toward a future when everyone with HIV has access to compassionate, effective treatment, Barr added.
Genoa’s new pharmacies are located onsite in HIV clinics, which means patients can walk out the door with medications the same day they get their diagnosis.
From there, the pharmacy teams make a point of developing trusting relationships with patients and closely partnering with their health care providers. They help patients stay on top of their medications with refill reminder calls, help securing prior authorizations and syncing and packaging medications to make it easier to take them as prescribed.
Medication adherence is critical both to effectively treat people living with HIV, and to prevent spreading the disease. When people take their medications as prescribed, it makes HIV undetectable in their bodies and non-transferrable to their partners. Genoa’s approach to pharmacy care helps people stay on their medication plans at a rate of 90%, compared to 50% in retail pharmacies.
“It’s so important for people who come to our pharmacy to know that we’ve got their back, that we will help them stay on top of their medications, that they won’t find any judgment here,” said pharmacist Kyle Folk in Genoa’s Las Vegas clinic. “Helping them stay on their treatment plan is a matter of health or sickness, life or death.”
Another Genoa pharmacist with expertise in HIV pharmacy recalled a time several years ago when a newly diagnosed patient came to the pharmacy window in distress. His family did not know he was bisexual and he worried about how they would react when they learned that he had tested positive for HIV.
The pharmacy team spent time educating him and answering questions about his treatment plan, and went on to develop a close trusting relationship with him. Today, the patient is healthy and successful in his career. “Pharmacy care isn’t just about filling prescriptions,” Folk said. “It’s also about building relationships, having as many conversations as it takes, helping patients through their toughest moments, and celebrating their successes.”