During this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, what is happening in San Diego’s HIV/AIDS community to keep consumers safe? With the state of California and thus, the County of San Diego, currently on a stay-at-home order, services needed by the HIV community have taken on a different look. Patrick Loose, chief of the HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch (HSHB) of Public Health Services for San Diego County, wished to convey the following message to the HIV community: “This is a scary time for many of you and there are many ways you can still access services without leaving your homes.”
Many services are now being handled over the phone to ensure the safety of clients, as well as the staff. When a face-to-face meeting is required, face masks are required as per the county health order. The HIV/AIDS community can call their case managers or their medical provider for further details. Most pharmacies have made changes as well by either delivering prescriptions or mailing prescriptions to clients.
HSHB Chief Loose quickly went to the HIV Planning Group (which makes decisions regarding Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding) and received their approval on some changes to ensure that no one in San Diego County living with HIV/AIDS would suffer during this coronavirus crisis. Loose (“Recipient” in the following statements) recommended the following:
Because of COVID-19, many contingency plans are needed to ensure continuity of services. During this unprecedented time, we are seeking ways to be most helpful and responsive to the population we serve. The Recipient anticipates increased requests for Emergency Housing Assistance and Home-Delivered Meals as employment is scaled back and people are required to stay home and/or self-isolating.
In the most recently completed contract year (March 1, 2019 to Feb. 29, 2020), there were several service categories that were not fully spent. HSHB recommends reducing allocations in the current year to Oral Health by $50,000 and Mental Health by $62,000 and moving those savings to other service categories to support persons living with HIV who are negatively impacted by the pandemic.
The Recipient further recommends increasing Emergency Housing Assistance by $50,000. Emergency Housing Assistance includes several programs designed to increase access to stable housing for persons living with HIV, including payment of short-term hotel stays, payment of the first two months’ rent, payment to prevent eviction, and payment of a monthly subsidy to reduce the cost of housing for persons who are experiencing short-term financial difficulties. For short-term hotel stays, the Recipient is also recommending that the annual cap be increased from two weeks (14 days) to six weeks (42 days) during the declared public health emergency.
The Recipient further recommends that the HIV Planning Group establish “Short-Term Partial Assistance Rental Subsidy (PARS),” which provides the benefits of PARS for up to six months, with enrollments to cease upon the end of the public health emergency declaration. The Recipient also recommends that the HIV Planning Group increase funding for Home-Delivered Meals by $62,000 to support temporary increased capacity during the public health emergency. Specifically, this service would be made available to persons living with diagnosed HIV who are ambulatory but who have particular vulnerabilities related to COVID-19 (age, other chronic health conditions) that are best addressed by minimizing all contact with persons outside of their homes.
All recommendations were approved by the San Diego HIV Planning Group at its monthly meeting held by teleconference via Webex. All HIV Planning Group subcommittees are continuing to take place via Webex.
Loose also stated: “The No. 1 priority of the HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch is that consumers continue to have access to a broad array of services to ensure the success of their treatment. This office meets weekly with all Ryan White providers to identify what’s working and where we need to focus our efforts on.”
If consumer have any questions, they can call their case managers or Patrick Loose directly at 619-293-4709 for details and requirements. During this crisis, if anyone needs to talk to a mental health counselor due to feelings of helplessness or depression, contact either a case manager or medical provider to set up an appointment for mental health treatment.