From March 7–11, AIDS Service Center NYC (ASC) hosted its fifth annual Treatment Education Week. More than 60 clients participated in one or more of the ten workshops held over the course of the event.
Originally, Treatment Education Week focused on providing information about the wide array of HIV medications and teaching participants how to overcome barriers to medical care. While these issues remain at the forefront, the event continues to evolve to reflect the myriad treatment issues that affect people living with HIV/AIDS today.
In addition to informative workshops on current and emerging treatment options, the event's organizers continually work to diversify and expand the curriculum. "Treatment updates will always be integral, but treatment is not just about taking medications," explains Ramona Cummings, ASC's Assistant Director of Prevention Services. "Treatment is also about lifestyle, environment, and quality-of-life issues. We work to enable our clients to make informed assessments with their doctors to choose a treatment plan that fits their lives."
This year's Treatment Education Week program included a presentation by Dr. Janice Curasi of St. Vincent's Medical Center entitled, "What are ‘Treatment Holidays' and Who Says When You Should Take One?". During the workshop, Dr. Curasi cited research supporting the importance of taking an individualized approach to deciding when and whether to suspend HIV treatment. Dr. Curasi also emphasized the importance of patients making their concerns known to their doctors and being actively involved in the decisions that directly affect them. Other workshops covered topics such as "Managing Wasting and Weight Loss through Nutritional Supplements," "What Does ‘Undetectable' Really Mean?" and "HIV Medications and Their Effects on Skin and Nails."
Throughout Treatment Education Week, ASC Peer Educators Darnell Robinson and Max Hernandez projected a PowerPoint timeline of HIV medications in the ASC reception area. The presentation cycled through the history and development of various medications, from AZT (released in 1987) to newer ones like Truvada (released in 2004). For each of the more than 20 medications listed, the presentation detailed common dosages, general descriptions, and side effects. "The timeline ends with ‘Coming Attractions,'" says Max Hernandez, "where we mention the ongoing development efforts toward an HIV vaccine. Between this and the continuing improvements in HIV meds, there's hope; there are still ways to conquer HIV. We wanted people to come away with that message."
ASC's Treatment Education Week received support from pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, Mom's Pharmacy, and Millennium Bio-Tech Pharmacy.