CHAPEL HILL, NC – The South is the center of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic and leads the country in new infections. North Carolina is no exception. In 2011, 1,563 North Carolinians were diagnosed with HIV. When they receive proper treatment, people with HIV have a normal life expectancy and are much less likely to pass the virus on to their partners. However, an estimated 24 percent of HIV-positive individuals living in North Carolina are not receiving medical treatment for their HIV. A new statewide call center will connect people diagnosed with HIV with the medical care that they need.
The Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine has partnered with the Communicable Disease Branch of North Carolina’s Division of Public Health to launch ONE CALL, a toll-free HIV call center staffed by specially trained nurses who can provide patients and non-specialist providers with referral to HIV care and support services across North Carolina.
“Very often the person who provides the positive HIV result is not the same person who provides treatment,” said Dr. Cindy Gay, an assistant professor of medicine at UNC who heads the ONE CALL program. That health care provider may have little or no experience treating HIV or in counseling someone who is newly diagnosed. “Our hope is that ONE CALL will put both providers and patients at ease and make getting into care easier,” Dr. Gay said.
Previous research has shown that when the medical provider who gives the positive test result also helps schedule the first appointment, the patient is much more likely to enter care.
“Health care providers have a critical role to play, and ONE CALL is here to help them just as much as the patients,” said program coordinator Christine Carcano. “Providers can direct their patients to ONE CALL, and the nurse on the other end of the line will ensure that the patient’s initial concerns are addressed.”
Nurses at the ONE CALL center will provide immediate intervention, HIV counseling, a tailored referral to care, and access to the only comprehensive and up-to-date HIV provider directory in the state. Nurses can immediately transfer patients to the clinic of their choice to make an appointment.
While recent advances in treatment have turned HIV into a manageable chronic condition, an HIV diagnosis is scary, and people living with HIV continue to face social stigma. ONE CALL offers a resource for people who may want an alternative to face-to-face interaction as they begin dealing with their HIV.
You can reach ONE CALL at 866-883-1836, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.