Positive Peers is achieving goals within the EHE Pillars

By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

Positive Peers is on the frontlines in support and advocacy for people living with HIV. Built by MetroHealth and supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Positive Peers has flourished.

MetroHealth provides holistic healthcare to over 1,800 unique patients living with HIV. Patients receive care from a team that includes physicians, nurses, social workers and others to provide both medical treatment and social support. MetroHealth is intent on addressing the barriers to HIV care and treatment. And Positive Peers provides social support in several ways, which bolster Ending the Epidemic (EHE) pillars.

EHE Pillars

A program called Ending the Epidemic was launched in 2019. EHE is a comprehensive effort by organizations at the federal, state, and local levels of government connected to Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP).

The four EHE pillars are:

  • Diagnose
  • Treat
  • Prevent
  • Respond

Positive Peers focuses on the Treat pillar by supporting participants’ medication adherence, health literacy and social supports. Positive Peers emphasizes the importance of sustaining viral suppression so that our users achieve U=U, undetectable equals untransmittable.

Landmark and historic policy, namely The Ryan White CARE Act, has provided a lifeline to organizations in showing up for people directly impacted by HIV/AIDS. This includes HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medication for people with living with HIV who are uninsured and underserved. More than half of people diagnosed with HIV in the United States receive services through RWHAP each year. Essentially, more than 500,000 people receive RWHAP services due to this groundbreaking legislation.

The Positive Peers app was influenced by the support groups at MetroHealth. Participants at MetroHealth were encouraged to share phone numbers and emails with each other at the end of the in-person meetings. Still, we noticed people preferred connecting through social media.

In 2015, the HIV/AIDS Bureau at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awarded a grant to MetroHealth to develop digital media tools to connect people with HIV to treatment and help them stay in treatment. This grant allowed us to begin building our own social network. The goal was to build an app/private social network to help patients connect, be involved in their health care, feel less isolated and be better prepared to live life with HIV.

We found people using Positive Peers app/private social network experienced favorable outcomes. The youngest participants in the Positive Peers community, 13 – 24 year olds, are 4 times more likely to achieve sustained viral suppression, according to a recent evaluation by researchers from Kent State University College of Public Health.

HRSA’s 2018 report, Advancing Innovation to End the HIV Epidemic, highlighted Positive Peers as one of five sites for its achievements reaching EHE pillars.

We don’t want to do this work without you.

We encourage more dedicated providers to join us as Key Health Partners. We are now nationwide. Together, we’re stronger and more equipped to end the epidemic and improve the lives of our neighbors. Key Health Partner Benefits Include:

  • Provide easy access to Positive Peers for young people with HIV in your area
  • Gain access directly with Positive Peers users in your geo-location, creating the potential for outreach or Early Intervention Services to those newly diagnosed or lost to care
  • Provide regional content for your community
  • Get local, aggregate data, and take advantage of baseline 3, 6, and 12-month data surveys

If your organization or agency is applying for EHE funds, please consider partnering with us at Positive Peers. We have a track record of sustaining viral suppression, a key goal of the Treat Pillar. We have Key Health Partners who are entire Ryan White Part A jurisdictions, so this might be an option for you too.

Please visit our page, here: https://positivepeers.org/health-partner/

Together, we can make progress and address EHE pillars. Let’s join forces.