You know Elton John as the music legend behind the piano and microphone, but there is another reason his fame is growing even more in Southwest Louisiana. He has a special connection with a local program for HIV patients and gave those folks a big shout-out in his new memoir, Love is the Cure.
Dr. Carlos Choucino is the medical director at Moss Regional's Comprehensive Care Clinic. He is one of a select group in the area that made the pages of John's new book, just released two weeks ago. "The Elton John AIDS Foundation is thrilled to have SLAC as our grantee," Dr. Choucino read from the pages of the book, "you know that is just fantastic!" he said.
SLAC is the Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council, a group that caught John's attention because of its innovative treatment plans for HIV patients with Dr. Choucino at Moss Regional's Comprehensive Care Clinic - starting with the "FACTs." "FACT is Find, Assess, Coordinate and Treat," said SLAC Executive Director, Terry Estes. "That's the actual intervention that we use to get people linked."
SLAC relies heavily on grants to keep its services alive. That is how Estes found the Elton John AIDS Foundation grant three years ago, securing $35,000 each year to fund its program of finding, tracking and retaining local HIV patients with navigator, Angela Hursey. "I go out to the homes, I knock on the doors, I go to their schools, I go to churches, I find them wherever, I talk to neighbors," she said.
The biggest challenge for physicians is getting patients inside the clinic doors, but the second challenge is keeping them and that is where the health navigation system plays a critical role.
"They know exactly where to go and what to do and whenever it's time for one of their appointments, we remind them of their appointments and when they don't show up, we even go to their homes," said Dr. Choucino.
It is a plan that is working, with double the number of HIV patients being seen in the CCC last year. "You have to nurture them, bring them in, make them feel comfortable and that they are in an environment where people care," said Dr. Choucino.
"It helps them to be able to live longer for their children, for their families, their friends," said Hursey, "in a holistic and wholesome way."
It is a method of treating the disease and the person - with the help of some star power!
The Elton John AIDS Foundation has contributed nearly $300 million to organizations like SLAC. Proceeds from Love is the Cure will be used to help more groups in need.