Mercy Care is nestled just east of downtown Atlanta in a mixed-income community known as Ashley Auburn Pointe, which is located on the fringes of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Since the doors opened in 1985, Mercy Care Atlanta has served the community in various capacities. Besides their ability to provide health care for individual and family needs, they also treat many infectious diseases such as HIV.
Infectious disease manager Patricia Parsons is one of many individuals who ensure Mercy Care provides needed services to all patients. Parsons oversees many deliverables regarding HIV prevention such as program budgets, she also supports agency goals as well as maintains community partnerships. Parsons feels by working with Mercy Care, she is “living a driven and purposeful life by helping others that are less fortunate.”
Parsons took the time to talk with rolling out about the impact of HIV on the Atlanta community along with some of the challenges Mercy Care faces as they strive to eradicate HIV.
In the fight to eradicate HIV, what are three challenges you or your organization have faced?
Mercy Care has challenges linking clients to care for those who may not be ready to initiate treatment and those who are in denial about their diagnosis, clients that are lost to follow-up and remaining in care and our no-show rate for those who do not show up for their scheduled appointments.
Do you think HIV awareness has lost its effectiveness?
HIV health promotion and awareness can never lose its effectiveness if we are pro-active in our messaging; know how relevant the information is and who we are targeting is important.
Please explain why not.
We must find innovative ways to reach individuals who are at high-risk and those who are infected with the virus. How we educate and implement awareness is something we can never give up on! This isn’t any time for us to be silent — protecting ourselves is the key to decreasing health outcomes. Know your status by getting tested!
How has HIV prevention affected the African American community in the city of Atlanta, and Fulton and DeKalb counties, has there been an increased effort to inform the community?
In the metro Atlanta counties, there are AIDS service organizations and community-based organizations that primarily service the African American community across the board. Testing is being done, behavioral interventions are implemented, and individuals are being educated and referred for PreP, along with linking clients into care. At Mercy Care, we have an integrated model of care, so clients can be seen here for various reasons. Our Early Intervention Clinic focuses on integration and delivery of behavioral health and substance abuse services for those living with HIV. In the last two years, Mercy Care has placed ads on MARTA to help inform the community of our services, which has resulted in increased outcomes of testing.