In the face of soaring hepatitis C rates among people of color living with HIV, Dr. Wari Allison and her team set out to address the issue in a uniquely modern fashion.

The vice president for health policy and director of the Center for Health Policy at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth first had to tackle two major barriers to getting this population life-saving treatment: There aren’t enough providers trained in or willing to take on hepatitis C. 

Her solution was to meet them where are — on their phones. Allison and her team at UT Health San Antonio, where Allison previously worked, developed a mobile app that provides guidelines for reporting coinfection, pre-treatment diagnostic requirements, treatment decision trees, drug access protocols and resources for continuing education.

The HIV/HCV Education & Learning for Providers, or the HELP App, will launch on Monday. The app was developed with ease of use and practicality in mind and features, for example, information about how to access hepatitis C drugs if a patient needing them is uninsured or underinsured. One of the developers’ key goals is to help health care providers manage and treat people living with both HIV and hepatitis C right in their medical home without having to refer them to specialty care.

“Accessible, easy-to-use, free educational assets like the HELP app are critical for skill-acquisition and task-shifting for providers managing hepatitis C in people with HIV,” Allison said. “Tools like this support and equip the patient-care workforce and contribute to facilitating access to care.”

The HELP app was developed within a federal Health Resources and Service Administration-funded Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Special Project of National Significance to Cure Hepatitis C in People of Color Living with HIV. Allison was the program director/principal investigator.

Ruth Serrano, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio, clinical director at the South-Central arm of the AIDS Education Training Center and medical director at the Alamo Area Resource Center, was among the first clinicians to review the HELP App. She said she would recommend it to all of her colleagues and called the app fast and easy to use.

“I can attest to the tremendous work that it takes to keep an app like this concise, up to date and engaging, and I think this app does it very efficiently,” she said. “I recommend this app to all providers taking care of patients with liver disease and hepatitis C to take advantage of this great tool.”

In the week leading up to this historic step toward reducing the often-deadly toll of these two concurrent viruses among low-income, underinsured or uninsured minorities, Allison will host a series of virtual events designed to foster community engagement and cultivate lively discussions around the issues and opportunities in combating the HIV/hepatitis C epidemic:

Noon on Monday− A panel discussion will be moderated by Allison with content-expert panelists (Dr. Dora Martinez, Dr. Margaret Adjei and Delana Gonzales). The panelists will discuss “HIV and HCV − Where We’ve Been, Where We Are and Where We Need to Go.” Register at bit.ly/37iHRdA.

Noon on Wednesday− A webinar with a Q&A session will be presented by Allison. “The HIV and HCV Syndemic — Chasing the Storm” will include a live graphic illustration by a sketch artist. Register at bit.ly/3LJHIP3.

11 a.m. on Friday, May 27 − Allison has organized an HIV telementoring Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes session with an HIV/hepatitis C co-infection didactic and case presentation. Register at bit.ly/3LMUr3w.

This app is free and available on Google Play and Apple Stores by searching “HIV/HCV education.”

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