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Intermountain Healthcare Donation Boosts U of U’s Public Health HIV/AIDS Outreach Program

January 12, 2007 — The Public Health Program at the University of Utah School of Medicine got a much-needed shot in the arm for its statewide HIV/AIDS education plan, thanks to a $100,000 donation from Intermountain Healthcare.

The gift will be used to support the Kristen M. Ries, M.D., HIV/AIDS Research and Service Endowment in Public Health, according to George L. White, Jr., Ph.D, M.S.P.H., professor and director of the Public Health Program.

“This wonderful partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the University’s Public Health Program will impact every community in Utah,” says White. “This endowment will help supplement the activities of the Utah AIDS Education and Training Center (UAETC), a component of the Public Health Program.”

Ries is a professor of internal medicine and adjunct professor of family and preventive medicine in the U of U School of Medicine. The Ries Research and Service Endowment was established in May to honor her three decades of service and care to the HIV/AIDS community in Utah and across the country.

The UAETC, funded by a modest federal grant that has undergone budget cuts in recent years, is the only organization delivering timely, accurate information and training about HIV/AIDS infection to Utah’s primary care and mental-health providers. The primary care provider is usually the first health-care professional to see HIV/AIDS patients; unfortunately, HIV patients often are misdiagnosed because of the complexity of the disease presentation.

“Increasing HIV/AIDS awareness in Utah health-care professionals is a tremendous challenge,” White says. “With the number of HIV/AIDS patients in Utah steadily increasing, especially in rural areas, plus new treatment regimens and experimental research programs, Utah health-care providers want and need the most current training regarding this disease so they can deliver optimal care for their patients.”

The UAETC emphasizes educating urban and rural health-care providers who want to increase their knowledge and skill in managing HIV/AIDS patients. The center focuses on the needs of providers who work with special populations at higher risk for HIV/AIDS, as well as those (such as rural or low income) that have more difficulty accessing the health-care system. The Intermountain Health donation provides funds to continue the outreach effort to rural providers.

During this past fiscal year, the UAETC collaborated on or was solely responsible for holding 107 HIV/AIDS training events across the state, educating more than 1,505 Utah health-care providers.