At least once a week, Christopher Hurt, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, receives an email from a physician or other health care professional seeking advice about treating a patient living with HIV infection. “Clearly, there are providers out there who are caring for people living with HIV infection and are looking for more education,” says Hurt.
In response, UNC’s School of Medicine, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), along with the Greensboro Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and the NC AIDS Training and Education Center (NCATEC) have organized an annual training each May. It is the largest statewide HIV conference offered in North Carolina. The two-day training will feature tracks dedicated to arming clinicians, allied health professionals, dentists and pharmacists with the latest HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and other sexual transmitted infection news.
“Even if you only have one patient with HIV or HCV, you should attend,” adds Hurt. “PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is one of the recent developments in HIV care that I get a lot of calls about – there’s just been a lot of new treatment information for HIV and HCV in just the last couple of years. We have experts in the field who will get you up to speed so that you can provide your patients with better care.”
In its 20th year, the conference is called Clinical Care in 2015: HIV, Hepatitis C and Vulnerable Populations. It will be held Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5.
“The conference includes a track for non-prescribers who are still very important team members in taking care of these patients,” says Heidi Swygard, MD, MPH, who has been organizing the event for the past six years. “The vulnerable populations track for non-prescribers is intended to highlight a specific population and heighten cultural competency.”
For the second year in a row, day two of the conference will feature presentations specifically tailored to dentists and pharmacists. The conference planning committee creates the agenda with participant feedback in mind, says David Wohl, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at UNC and Director of the NC AIDS Training and Education Center, a conference sponsor.
“We listen to the evaluations we solicit at the end of each year’s conference,” Wohl says. “We are guided by participant input. We want this conference to be worth people’s time and to get even better every year.”
More than 28,000 people in North Carolina were living with HIV at the beginning of 2014, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. Hurt opens the conference with a presentation called HIV in America, which he says will give participants an overview of the epidemiology of HIV with an eye toward new information.
“Young, African American men who have sex with men continue to have the highest incidence of new infection and that’s not because they are engaging in any riskier behavior,” Hurt says. “So a portion of my talk will discuss why this is happening.”
One of the phone calls Hurt received recently was from a physician who had started a patient on pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP to prevent HIV. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved PrEP in 2012, it has not been widely prescribed.
“I’ve noticed in the past six months a growing interest for PrEP in the community and that is driving physician interest,” says Hurt.
The conference will feature a PrEP panel. Local people taking PrEP daily to prevent HIV infection will share their experiences. Adam Ward, a graduate student at NC State University is one of the panelists. He started taking PrEP daily this fall after learning his partner had been unfaithful.
“It gives me peace of mind and reduces my risk of getting HIV,” Ward says.
HCV is another popular topic that will be discussed as it relates to treating patients who are mono-infected or co-infected with HCV and HIV.
“We are light years ahead of where we were five to 10 years ago, when people took twice-daily pills along with a weekly shot for 48 weeks. They experienced horrible side effects,” Hurt says. “Now we have oral treatment for a maximum of 24 weeks that is much better tolerated. This is a rapidly evolving field and there is a big wave of patients coming to us seeking treatment.”
The second day will focus on the latest HIV news as it relates to pharmacists and dentists. Amanda Corbett, PharmD, Clinical Associate Professor at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, is one of the day’s presenters.
“It is always rewarding to meet with colleagues and share ideas and experiences in caring for HIV patients,” Corbett says. “The complexities of medication management with antiretrovirals are ever changing and critical for pharmacists to play a significant role. Last year was the inaugural pharmacy focused session on day two of the conference. It was a great success for which we hope to build upon for 2015!”
To register for the conference, visit http://www.aheconnect.com/ncahec/findevents.aspx?a=5