Today, our podcast is called ending the epidemics and I have an amazing guest on our show today. He is the chief executive officer and executive director of radiant health centers in Irvine, California.





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What you will learn

  • History of AIDS Services Foundation
  • How Radiant Health Centers came to fruition and LGBTQ health in Orange County, California
  • Learn about Innovative OC TeleART program and involvement of advanced practice pharmacist as a key member of OC Tele-ART team
  • Learn more about Ending the Epidemics in California- HIV, Hepatitis C and STI

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Hi, this is Michelle Sherman, president of Michelle RX, pharmacist’s consulting services and host of the conscious pharmacist podcast. We are also part of the pharmacy podcast network and very proud to be on that network of over 60,000 listeners across the country listening to all these amazing podcasts on the pref professional pharmacy. Today, our podcast is called ending the epidemics and I have an amazing guest on our show today. He is the chief executive officer and executive director of radiant health centers in Irvine, California. Um, he’s a great friend of mine who I’ve known for many, many, many years and we’ve worked together for a long time and I am very pleased to introduce Philippi agar. Hi Phil. Thanks for being on the podcast today.

Good morning Michelle and thank you so much for inviting me. I really appreciate the opportunity to, uh, share information with you and your listeners.

Thanks Phil. Um, you know, we’ve worked together for so many years, um, when, uh, the agency was called eight services foundation and now we’re radiant health centers. You give our listeners a little brief history on H services foundation and how we got to be radiant health centers today.

Sure, absolutely. So we were founded in 1985 by a group of volunteers, uh, in the Laguna beach area who were seeing friends and family members suddenly come down with this strange mystery illness. And so these volunteers that we need to do something about this, uh, they held a small backyard pool party with a hope of raising $25,000. Uh, they raised over $33,000, and that was the seed money that started aid services foundation, orange County. Um, and in our early years from 1985, our inception through the early nineties, you know, we basically help people die with dignity. There wasn’t a lot in the way of treatment. And so, you know, we work just to make sure folks were comfortable. Um, and then with the advent of protease inhibitors, new treatment options, we got very excited and that really was a game changer. We then focused our on building out that safety net of services that would be required to keep people in care and on treatment because the research was, and then starting to come out around the importance of viral suppression and then beginning to look at early treatment.

Then in around 2005, we secured our first prevention grant and began really to focus on preventing new infections. We began doing HIV testing, uh, both at our site in, uh, Costa Mesa as well as a site in Irvine, our main site in Irvine. Um, and so really focusing on prevention. Uh, and then, um, couple of years ago, um, the board of directors really said, you know what, uh, we know that it is possible to end the epidemic. Let’s really look at focusing on what that would entail and how we as a organization can lead our community in that, in that direction. So what we still were seeing is five to six new HIV infections in orange County every week. And naturally that first assumption is lack of education awareness. Um, more a risky behavior years than a normal. And what the research has shown is that’s not the case. It’s a lack of access to appropriate healthcare for the LGBTQ community.

That is what is preventing young folks from getting tested, getting screened and accessing the preventative tools such as prep, uh, to prevent themselves from getting infected. And by not having access to health care and not getting tested, uh, folks are out there spreading the virus to others. So we really said, okay, we, we do still want to end this epidemic, but what we really have to do is addresses healthcare inequity in the LGBTQ community. So with an expanded vision and expanded mission, we knew that we needed to align the name of the organization. With that new work, we realized that a young gay man who’s not HIV positive or a young lesbian woman isn’t necessarily going to look to the AIDS organization for the place to come for their health care. So we knew that we needed to rebrand with a new name and an expanded mission and vision. So that’s what led us from aide services foundation, orange County in 1985 to today, uh, 2019 Radian health centers, orange County.

That’s, it’s, it’s an extraordinary journey and you know, I feel so privileged to have been part of that journey since I started this work like about 28 years ago as an HIV pharmacist. I’ve been inextricably connected to each other. This is foundation and now radiant health centers in caring for our patients. Like you mentioned earlier from helping people die with dignity to people thriving and living well with HIV and focusing on like the quality of life and you know, this transition from that type of HIV care now to a more comprehensive like, um, less, um, LGBTQ black facility is extraordinary in orange County. I mean, we have so many people still infected with HIV. When we look at the national plan for HIV, orange county’s actually listed as one of the 48 hotspot counties. So the transition of radiant from ASF to rate Intel centers and now into medical services is extraordinary. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about this movement into the provision of these, um, medical services and what you’re, you’re providing and how that’s rapidly moving to ending that epidemics in orange County?

Yes, I would love to. So, um, you know, as I mentioned a bit earlier, about 2005, we secured our first funding for HIV testing. Um, and that was fantastic. Um, about five years ago we expanded that screening to include hepatitis C because we know many of our folks living with HIV were coinfected with Hep C. so we expanded testing there. Um, and then last summer, uh, about a year ago we expanded our S T I S screening to include not just HIV and Hep C, but the full gamut of STI. So gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis. We do a self administered self swabs, uh, three sites for those tests. Um, so we were very excited to begin providing that service. Uh, next, uh, in October of last year, we received funding for sexual health and family planning services, part on enjoying the title Tet title 10 network of service providers in the state of California. So we began providing against sexual health, pregnancy, the screenings, and we were actually with that expansion of services began to, uh, we’re able to begin providing actual prep prescriptions.

So prep the preexposure prophylaxis that we talk about. That’s, that’s, you know, the incredible new tool. We have to prevent new infections from happening. Uh, if we tested someone that was high risk, we had to refer them out to one of, you know, a dozen providers in the County who had consider providing prep and writing prescriptions. But every one of them had a, you know, 30 to 90 day wait to be seen. And we knew that if we really wanted to close that gap, we needed to be able to provide those services instantaneously. So now we test somebody who is high risk, we walk them across the hall, they’re able to be seen by a nurse practitioner who can do the exam and provide them with that prescription that day. So the very next day they’re getting the prescription either mailed to their home or they’re picking up at a local pharmacy.

So we were very excited to begin providing prep on site. Uh, and then we did just secure funding, uh, through the state department of public health to implement rapid art or rapid antiretroviral therapy. And the project that we’re implementing, we’ve called tele art, uh, because we’re using a telemedicine platform to be able to provide the services in multiple locations with just one set of providers needing to be on site. So we are very excited about that program. Uh, what we’ll be doing is getting medication into the hands of newly diagnosed individuals within one to three days. And so we are just very excited about that because that is a key strategy in really ending the epidemic because the standard now is 30 to 90 days after diagnosis before individuals are able to begin treatment during that period. They are incredibly infectious and their viral load still remains high and we know that that is how HIV is spread, uh, to individuals and the medications are incredibly effective. So being able to get people on treatment as soon after diagnosis is just going to be, again, another game changer and really help us advance our efforts of ending the epidemic.

Yeah. This OSI teller art program is extremely exciting and, um, I’m, I’m very privileged to, to be part of their program. And for the pharmacists that are listening to this call, this is the exact modality we pharmacists are recognized as healthcare providers and especially in California where you can obtain your advanced practice license. You, you can combine your practice of pharmacy with medical practices, physicians offices and entities like radiant health center where you’re an integral part of the healthcare team and providing these essentially life saving medicines. So I’m very privileged to be part of the, the teller or program and really making a significant difference in, um, lowering HIV infections in orange County and essentially decreasing a entire community viral load in orange County and getting people tested and on treatment between the one to three days is like a game changer for our care in orange County. And this is how we’re going to end the epidemic here in orange County and hopefully it [inaudible] spend there to the County surrounding us. So talking about ending the epidemics, um, I know we, um, on October 18th we’ve got a town hall meeting in Santa Ana called ending the epidemic. Can you tell our audience a little bit about that and you know, for those people listening to this podcast that are local, either in orange County or anywhere in Southern California, this would be a great forum for you to attend.

Yes, I’d love to share that information. So as Michelle just mentioned, we do have a town hall event coming up on Friday, October 18th, and the town hall is focused on ending the epidemics with an S and the epidemics of HIV, hepatitis C and S T D. and, and let me tell you about where this effort, uh, really started from. So there is a statewide group here in Cala, California, uh, known as the California HIV AIDS research policy centers and they’re based out of UC San Francisco, uh, and then also a PLA in Los Angeles HPLA health. And what these two, um, or what the research centers are responsible for is really looking at the HIV epidemic in California. And as we sat down as a group about a year ago to really identify what the state of California has plan for ending the HIV epidemic should look like. Um, folks realize that, you know, what, uh, if we’re going to be talking about ending the HIV epidemic, why are we not focused on the hepatitis C epidemic and the epidemic of S T I’s or STDs that is raging across the state and raging across our communities.

And so, excuse me. So what we did is spun off a, a a work group, uh, known as the end, the epidemics statewide working group. So the first thing is working group did, is put together a community Kent’s consensus statement, uh, that was sent to governor Newsome in may requesting funding to address the sin Dimmick’s of HIV, hepatitis C and S T I’s in this state. Uh, we did not get our full funding requests, but we did get some funding. And the second piece of this work was establishing a series of town hall meetings across the state of California so that we could engage local communities and hear about what they’re currently doing around HIV prevention and linkage to care and treatment around hepatitis C, uh, testing and linkage to care and STI prevention and treatment here. What’s working here, what challenges remain and educate folks about the statewide effort that’s taking place and how we can leverage that statewide advocacy to advance the local initiatives that are either currently in place or that really need to be implemented to advance the work of vending, the, the synthetics or the epidemics of HIV, hepatitis C and STI.

So the first town hall was held in Los Angeles on August 2nd this’ll be the second a town hall in the state. I’m being held in orange County, California at the public health department on 17th street in Santana. So again, coming up Friday, October 18 very excited, we will have a keynote speaker, a speaker, a Loretta Sanchez, will be doing that. And then we have panelists who will speak again generally and then specifically to orange county’s efforts around HIV, hepatitis C and S. T.

great. Thank you. I mean that’s going to be a very valuable, um, town hall and anybody who’s interested in attending, um, we’ll attach the flyer and the address and times of the town hall to the show notes. So if you’re in orange County or anywhere in Southern California and you can make it on Friday, um, October 18, um, we’d love, love to have you at the forum. I’m also, October seems like a very busy month, um, for radiant and, and some of your activities. Um, one last thing that I’d like to, to mention also is the okra, the orange County, right, for AIDS. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that? It’s the only, um, besides the AIDS life cycle that occurs in California every year, this is the only other ride that takes place in California. Can you let our listeners know a little bit about that?

Yes. The orange County ride for AIDS or okra is coming up this Saturday, October 12th. Uh, we have two routes. We will have a 30 mile route and we will also have a 62 mile route. Uh, the ride starts and ends at the city of Irvine, uh, city hall or the city of Irvine civic center. Um, it’s a great day. This’ll be the 10th and final year for the ride. It’s been fun. We’ve enjoyed putting it on. Um, but we’re going to refocus our energies, but if you can make it come on out, uh, it’s going to be a fun, fun day. Uh, and if you’re interested in just donating and supporting the ride, uh, please go to our website, radium health and you’ll have a find a link there to be able to do that.

Great. Thanks so much Phil. And um, I want you to again, take this opportunity to thank you so much for being a guest on the conscious pharmacists podcost. Um, we’ve worked for many years together and taking care of HIV patients and now expanding into the STI epidemic, hepatitis C epidemic and ensuring that all our patients are treated with dignity, dignity and care is a team effort. It involves everybody involved in the patient’s care team and I feel very privileged, um, to be, to be part of their team and working with radiant on these efforts. And, um, thank you so much for, for being on this podcast today.

Thank you so much, Michelle. I really have, um, appreciated the opportunity to work with you over the years. Um, and I’m really proud of the work we’re doing together. So again, thank you so much for this opportunity.