Living with HIV in NEPA

Healthbeat

Scranton-based clinic touted for successful treatment

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It’s been more than three decades since acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS first appeared in the U.S. Despite no cure for HIV which is the virus that causes AIDS, better treatments have emerged.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson has been proof for nearly 30 years that you can live with HIV. Managing it is the goal of a clinic Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller visited in Scranton.

“So, how many people are coming in today?,” asked Shubhra Shetty, MD. The answer was 14. The patients Dr. Shetty and her staff are seeing happens at The Wright Center for Community Health Ryan White Infectious Disease Clinic on Madison Avenue.

“The intent of the clinic is to treat people with any infections but we do have a focus on HIV AIDS,” said Dr. Shetty who is medical director of the clinic and Associate Dean at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

For more than a decade of its nearly quarter-century existence, the clinic has been a critical resource to thousands of people living with HIV. Dr. Shetty said, “I think a lot of people in the community think that HIV has gone away and it really hasn’t. It’s just not being talked about as much.”

Neither is the successful treatment offered there. A single pill a day can accomplish what used to require handfuls of medication. But it’s more than just dispensing medicine that sets this clinic apart. Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine student Yoseph Aldras is part of the staff. So is Sr. Ruth Neely, RSM The nurse practitioner preaches a different kind of CPR. “It’s the Compassion, your Presence, and Reassurance that you give. That’s what every one of us want.”

What they’re doing here is working. Dr. Shetty said, “We have what’s called an undetectable viral low rate of 86 percent.” Sr. Neely added, “When they get undetectable I sing: ‘Undetectable, that’s what you are.’ “

Sr. Ruth and Dr. Shetty presented their data last year at a national conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. They showed how they help make HIV more manageable in a non-major metro community. “People are able to live healthy lives. They’re doing well,” said Dr. Shetty.

The Wright Center For Community Health Ryan White Infectious Disease Clinic will soon have a new home. It will relocate November 4 from its Madison Avenue location to the corner of North Washington Avenue and Hickory Street in Scranton.

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