News and Updates

FSU medical researcher: Much work remains on World AIDS Day 2016

Dr. Jonathan Appelbaum, professor of internal medicine at the FSU College of Medicine

Dr. Jonathan Appelbaum, professor of internal
medicine at the FSU College of Medicine

Florida State University’s Dr. Jonathan Appelbaum remembers that day in 1981 when a young patient was admitted to the hospital with a rare case of pneumocystis pneumonia. Appelbaum, an internal medicine resident at the time, and his colleagues did not recognize the man’s illness as an AIDS case.

No one would have. Not much was known at that time about the mysterious pneumonia cases claiming an increasing number of lives around the country. In June 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first announced symptoms of the unknown — and deadly — disease. Appelbaum’s young pneumonia patient did not survive.

As World AIDS Day 2016 raises awareness about the disease on Thursday, Dec. 1, Appelbaum — a professor of internal medicine at FSU — considers the progress researchers have made battling HIV/AIDS. It was a death sentence 35 years ago. The disease has killed about 660,000 people in the United States over that time, according to the CDC.

Today, there’s a stark contrast. While an estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. are infected with HIV, many live relatively normal lives. HIV infection is no longer a death sentence. Patients are able to manage it like a chronic disease.

“The average life expectancy in the United States for someone is around 79,” said Appelbaum, who has researched the disease throughout his career. “If you’re infected with HIV at age 20, and you get care and follow up with medical appointments and take your medications, your average life expectancy now is 71. That’s certainly much better than the old days when if you got infected at 20, you were lucky to live to 30 to 35. It was about a 10 to 15-year lifespan.”

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New Medical Facility Breaks Ground on Tallahassee’s Southside

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) – A new full-service medical facility on the southside of Tallahassee broke ground Tuesday.

Representatives with Care Point Health and Wellness Center announced that the $11 million medical facility is intended to function as a one-stop medical home for patients in the area.

 They said they are positioned to serve the Southside area of Tallahassee to include Southwood, Crawfordville and Woodville.

“We recognized the real need for a conveniently-located, full-service medical facility in this location,” said Rob Renzi, Executive Director of Care Point. “Ease of access for our state, city and county employees along with neighboring communities south of Tallahassee put us in a position for great success.”

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Care Point construction underway

, Democrat staff writer7:04 p.m. EDT September 13, 2016

The groundbreaking was a decade in the making.

On Tuesday, a boxed frame collected ceremonial concrete that was churned and smoothed. The inaugural foundation symbolizes the start of construction of Care Point Health and Wellness Center, which will stretch along an entire city block at South Monroe and Adams streets and Magnolia Drive. For the next year, the four-acre site will be a construction zone as the largest project on Tallahassee’s south side in more than a decade takes shape.

The Care Point Health and Wellness Center is an $11-million, 27,000 square-foot medical facility designed to be a central place for a host of medical services. Its location is designed to serve downtown employees, south side residents and those living as far as Southwood, Crawfordville and Woodville.

Big Bend Cares is responsible for the concept. The agency, which serves more than 900 patients living with HIV and AIDS, hopes to reduce the burden for its clients who have been bounced around for medical care. But it’s also designed to serve insured low-income families, single parents, senior citizens and under-employed residents.

Rob Renzi, executive director for Big Bend Cares, said many of his clients are looking forward to the wrap-around approach for their varied needs.

“This is what they’ve been asking for, for a very long time,” Renzi said. “The clients that we serve and the providers we contract with are really the onus on why this whole thing developed.”

Renzi, who is also Care Point’s director, said the building’s concept has long been discussed by the agency’s board and “it’s been a big relief that we are making progress.”

Big Bend Cares and Care Point will function as two separate entities. Health care partners within Care Point include Florida A&M and Florida State universities, the Apalachee Center and Southeastern Center for Infectious Diseases. Insured patients will get access to dental, lab work and radiology services, including mental health professionals and pharmacists. (The uninsured can still receive heath care at Bond Community Health Care Center and Neighborhood Medical Services.)

“The finished project is going to be amazing,” said Lourena Maxwell, board chairwoman for Big Bend Cares. “It’s going to benefit people who can’t take half a day off or go to three places to get their health care needs met.”

More than 100 attendees, including city and county commissioners, builders, designers and health care partners, saw an already transformed area. Eleven buildings, abandoned and blighted, were acquired from seven property owners in order to combine adjacent lots and create space for the new center. Money for the project includes $1.5 million from the Community Redevelopment Agency and Big Bend Cares fundraising.

The Care Point project is the first new major construction project on Tallahassee’s south side in more than a decade, said Assistant City Manager Wayne Tedder. He said the last major construction projects there took place more than 10 years ago when a Walgreen’s store was built across the street on Magnolia Drive and a Winn Dixie erected on Paul Russell Road.

“We’re looking at this from a planning perspective as an incredible addition to the south side of our community where we have been focusing our efforts for many years,” Tedder said. “I think this is going to be a great start for a lot to come on South Monroe.”

Read the original article here.

Perspectives: Chronic Disease Impact

Listen to our Deputy Director, Charlie Adams, talk about HIV/AIDS on Perspectives with Tom Flanigan here. They are joined by Candace DeMatteis, policy chief for the Florida Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease; Brenda Olsen, chief mission officer for the American Lung Association of the Southeast; and Dr. Nicole Bixler, president of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association to talk about the pervasiveness and impact of chronic diseases.

FDA May Lift Restrictions On Gay Blood Donations

JUL 27, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be lifting regulations on blood donations from gay men. The move comes after pressure from activists in the wake of a mass shooting at an Orlando gay club and blood shortages that followed.

Big Bend Cares Deputy Director Charlie Adams says, “I think a lot has changed in technology and the ability to test blood for everyone, so I see no reason to single out one particular group based upon an old thought process. There’s risks involved with anyone’s blood, and it’s not just HIV and AIDS, which I think is more specifically targeted for men engaging in male-to-male sexual contact so I would believe that the law should be looked at. I think it’s an outdated law that comes out of a different time and a different place.”

Read the full article here.

It’s Been 35 Years Since Gay Men’s Health Crisis Began in Larry Kramer’s Living Room

August 11, 1981 — 35 years ago to this day — was a day like no other. Fear was spreading rapidly since The New York Times published the first article about AIDS, titled “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals,” July 3 of that year. There is no way to put into words how hard and scary it was to be a gay man during that time. So on August 11, 1981, a group of brave men gathered in Larry Kramer’s living room, and together they set a course to change history.

Choosing hope and strength over fear and helplessness, they passed around a hat and collected $7,000 to fight this rare cancer. Soon Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s first AIDS service organization, was born with a mission of fighting to end the AIDS epidemic and uplifting the lives of all affected.

The first service provided by the organization was the hotline, which began as an answering machine in the apartment of a volunteer, Rodger McFarlane, who later became the organization’s second executive director. On the first night, 100 calls were received. Some of the questions required the help of medical, legal, and other professionals to answer. As there was no social service agency to which GMHC could direct these callers, it created the patient services division to provide further help.

As the current chief executive officer of GMHC, I look at the history of this organization and equate it with the start of the AIDS epidemic, both of which happened 35 years ago. I am still in awe at the time, energy, and dedication activists spent fighting this disease and caring for their loved ones. Going forward, what concerns me most is the current sense of complacency around HIV and AIDS. I fear that with tools like the HIV prevention strategy PrEP and the success of antiretroviral treatment, there is a lackluster willingness to fight in the same way AIDS activists fought at the beginning of the epidemic.

Given the fact that the United States still sees 50,000 new HIV infections every year, and has for the last decade, this is no time for complacency.

Many of the same problems GMHC’s founders encountered in the 1980s are still problems today. Stigma and discrimination remain rampant against those living with HIV and AIDS as well as those most affected by the disease, most notably transgender women and young men of color who have sex with men. We still do not have a cure. And not everyone has access to universal, quality, affordable health care that includes mental health care and affordable prescription drug coverage.

At GMHC, we are doing our part each and every day to help end the epidemic. Last year we served 10,000 clients from across New York City who were living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. We provided 3,000 HIV and sexually transmitted disease tests, maintained a 90 percent viral suppression rate among those who tested positive, served 80,000 hot meals, and opened a newly renovated youth space. We are currently in the process of opening new mental health and substance abuse clinics to stem these major drivers of the epidemic and meet the growing mental health crisis in this country.

Maybe it is because of all the amazing work AIDS service organizations and our partners in government do across the country, but I remain optimistic about finally putting an end to this epidemic, once and for all.

Who would have ever thought that one day we would see the Food and Drug Administration approve an HIV prevention drug? Truvada, approved for use as pre-exposure prophlaxis (PrEP) in 2012, has been shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent when used consistently. In the fall, the seventh major HIV vaccine efficacy trial will begin. And we now know that having an undetectable viral load greatly lowers your chance of transmitting the virus to sexual and drug-using partners who are HIV-negative.

These are all realities that no one could have ever imagined August 11, 1981.

But if we become complacent, our progress will become stagnant. We are nearing the last leg of this epidemic, and we must get ready to sprint to the finish line as a tribute to the 35 million we have lost to the epidemic in the world and the seven men who gathered in Larry Kramer’s living room in 1981.

Big Bend Cares

2201 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301

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850.942.6402 fax