UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program acts locally to end the HIV epidemic

Above, from left: James Sosman, MD; Shannon Ruth-Leigh, MA; and Chris Chapman, MA, are leading local HIV education and outreach efforts through the UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program.

In response to a national campaign to end the HIV epidemic, the UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program is leading numerous local outreach efforts to educate the public on the biomedical and social aspects of HIV.

The national campaign, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, was announced in early 2019. It aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75 percent in the next five years. (In 2018, there were 216 new HIV diagnoses in Wisconsin, 29 of which were in Dane County.)  

PrEP It up campaign

PrEP campaign imageA key element of reducing new HIV diagnoses is PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, which involves taking medication to prevent HIV. PrEP is 99 percent effective at preventing HIV when the medication is taken as prescribed. “PrEP is such an important part of the HIV prevention toolkit, but unfortunately, barriers persist that prevent it from reaching everyone who needs it,” says Rose Staden, NP, a nurse practitioner and PrEP provider at UW Health.  

To increase PrEP awareness and access, the UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program launched a media campaign with a message: PrEP for Love, PrEP for Play, PrEP for the Future. Stay HIV Free with PrEP.  Campaign ads were visible on Madison Metro buses and social media throughout November and December of 2019. Ads will continue to run on social media in English and Spanish in 2020. The campaign website can be viewed at www.prepitup.org.

In support of the PrEP It Up campaign, James M. Sosman, MD, professor (CHS), General Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease, and UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program medical director, along with Shannon Ruth-Leigh, MA, HIV program specialist, appeared on WISC-TV Live at 4. The campaign was also covered in the Capital City Hues, in an editorial by WISC-TV Editorial Director Neil Heinen, and on other radio and TV outlets.

Community outreach

The national campaign acknowledges that ending the HIV epidemic is not just a biomedical issue, but a whole-of-society initiative with many social challenges, such as HIV stigma. In recognition of World AIDS Day, and in an effort to act locally to combat these social challenges, Chris Chapman, MA, patient and community engagement specialist, appeared on NBC 15 Evening News on December 1, 2019, the date World AIDS Day is observed worldwide.  

The UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program also hosted Pass the Mic, a free public event on December 5, 2019, at Brassworks Building at Goodman Community Center. Echoing the slogan “Nothing about us, without us,” which addresses the importance of integrating people most affected by HIV in the response to the epidemic, the community gathering featured real-life stories told by people living with HIV.  

To stress the need for ongoing HIV education, attendees viewed a short video compilation of interviews at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. Interviewees were asked a series of questions about HIV basic facts; many answers, while comical, illustrate the lack of accurate HIV knowledge.  Approximately 115 people attended the event. 

The UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program staff will continue to participate in numerous community events focused on HIV education and outreach. Examples include involvement in health and wellness days sponsored by faith-based groups, a high school resource fair, a radio program in Spanish, and annual events like Black Women’s Wellness Day and the Latino Health Fair. Watch for these efforts throughout 2020.  

—Chris Chapman


Banner, from left: James Sosman, MD; Shannon Ruth-Leigh, MA; and Chris Chapman, MA, are leading local HIV education and outreach efforts through the UW Health HIV/AIDS Comprehensive Care Program. Credit: Clint Thayer/Department of Medicine.