AIDS clinic opens soon in Columbia


The Howard County Health Department will open a clinic this month to provide medical evaluations and referrals for HIV-infected patients who have had difficulty finding medical care.

A Johns Hopkins physician, a community health nurse and a social worker will staff the clinic, which will operate out of the health department's Columbia office.

Funding for the clinic, which will operate on alternate months in Howard and Carroll counties, was made available to Baltimore-area AIDS-care providers through federal grants under the Ryan White Care Act.

The act, which distributes money according to the number of AIDS cases in each jurisdiction, is named in memory of Ryan White, an 18-year-old Indianian who died in 1990 after a five-year battle with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The clinic will serve HIV-positive patients who are unable to pay for medical treatment or who cannot gain access to required services.

"We have heard of people who have tested positive and have not had adequate insurance and have failed to get evaluated for preventive therapy, which is our biggest concern," said Dr. Cynthia Lipsitz, director of the county health department's bureau of personal health.

The salaries of the community health nurse and social worker are covered by $47,000 in federal money, awarded to the county health department by the AIDS Administration of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The social worker position has not been filled.

A separate $81,164 grant to the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, part of a $1.8 million grant to the Baltimore area under the Ryan White Care Act, pays for the Hopkins doctor to provide services to HIV patients in clinics in Howard, Carroll and four other counties.

The grant also covers some services at Hopkins' Moore outpatient clinic for AIDS patients, said Dr. John N. Lewis, assistant commissioner for public medicine and epidemiology with the Baltimore City Health Department.

ON first visiting the clinic, an HIV patient will be evaluated by a nurse and social worker. Then the clinic doctor will develop a medical care plan and refer the patient to a local doctor for continuing medical care.

"Our goal is for people to be followed by the local medical community so they can see their doctors where they live," said Barbara Tuss, a community health nurse who works full-time with county AIDS patients.

"There are people who just don't know where to go or where to start," she said.

Katherine Harrison, the Johns Hopkins physician who will evaluate patients at the county clinic, will also be available to local health department staff on a consulting basis to assist in the medical care of clinic patients, Ms. Lipsitz said.

And in cases where immediate medical attention is needed, the doctor will be able to set up an appointment for the patient with a specialist or at the Moore clinic.

Since 1981, there have been 70 reported AIDS cases in Howard. Approximately 60 percent of those patients have died, according to the county health department.

The Howard clinic will conduct its first evaluations on March 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The clinic will start in Carroll County on April 8.

Residents of either county may receive services from either clinic.

For more information about the clinic, call Barbara Tuss of the county health department at 313-7500.

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