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Free Nonprofit Helps HIV Patients Cope with Condition

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

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There’s no cure for HIV. Thankfully, HIV medicines can help people with the virus live longer, healthier lives.

But the question remains for many people living with HIV: How do I live with a chronic condition?

A new HIV self-management education program aims to answer that question by teaching people with HIV how to care for themselves and stay healthy by taking actions to control and manage their health.

In short, it’s a program that empowers participants to live their fullest and best lives.

Free Nonprofit Program

There’s no cost to participate in the program, which is offered by Lee Health in partnership with McGregor Community Services, a division of The McGregor Clinic.

The clinic is a nonprofit healthcare program that provides an integrated approach to patient care, emphasizing services for clients living with HIV.

Sharon Krispinsky, chronic health program coordinator at Lee Health, says the program is designed to enhance regular treatment and HIV-specific education.

“The program gives participants the skills to coordinate all the things needed to manage their health, as well as to help them keep active in their lives,” she says. “There’s so much information about HIV that it can be overwhelming. The program shows participants how to effectively manage their condition through action planning, which allows us to break down the information into more manageable steps.”

The virtual workshops meet once a week for six weeks and last about two hours. The program – taught worldwide – was originally developed at Stanford University Patient Education and Research Center.

Community Concentration

HIV affects 1.2 million people in the U.S. In Lee County, 2,300 community members live with HIV, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Amy Zamot, director of prevention and community services at McGregor Clinic, says the program gives participants the direction, knowledge and hope they need to live with a chronic health condition.

“The patients that Lee Health serves, and the patients that we serve, it’s the same community, so it just makes sense,” Zamot says. “Let’s do better for our community, and the best way to do better is to work together.”

The program has proved to be effective for participants on their healthcare journey, according to Krispinsky.

“From lab work to nutrition to medications, the HIV self-management education program teaches participants in a safe, supportive, and empowering environment,” Krispinsky says. “Among the program benefits are that participants can improve their medication management and adherence, which can lead to better HIV suppression in the blood after six months, according to studies.”

Program participants will learn how to:

  • Live with a chronic condition
  • More easily manage medications
  • Understand the benefits of exercise
  • Make smarter decisions related to healthy eating
  • Work more effectively with health professionals
  • Understand ways to manage difficult emotions
  • Improve your sleep through different methods and tools

We offer virtual and in-person sessions throughout the year.

“Our classes are small, confidential, lively and interactive,” Krispinsky says. “If you’re living with HIV, you are not alone. There is help, and it’s available in our community.”

Get Started Now

Ready to take charge of HIV? Call 343-9264 to register for the next virtual workshop, which starts May 19 and runs through June 23.

Talking to others who have HIV may also be helpful. You are not alone. Ask your provider for help finding a local HIV support group. Learn about how other people living with HIV have handled their diagnosis.

While there is no cure for HIV, with proper medical care, it can be controlled and managed. People with HIV who get effective treatment can live long, healthy lives.

The McGregor Clinic is one of the largest providers of HIV care in Southwest Florida. McGregor Community Services offers different services to the community through their free HIV rapid testing, education, mobile unit outreach and community mobilization. Call 239-334-9555 to learn more.