AOC to host new Magic Johnson HIV/AIDs clinic

Gould expects new clinic to open in April, giving HIV/AIDS patients in Tarrant County more options for care

Magic-Johnson

Magic Johnson

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Officials at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, announced on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, that basketball legend and AIDS survivor Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be lending his name to three new AHF-affiliated healthcare clinics — including one planned at AOC’s Fort Worth facilities.
The other two new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Centers will be in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Atlanta.

AOC and AHF officials had announced in late September that the boards of the two agencies had signed a letter of intent to develop the Fort Worth clinic.

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould said this week his agency is “very excited” that the clinic being planned here was chosen to be an AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center.

“It is definitely something we had hoped for, and we are very honored that the Magic Johnson Foundation and AIDS Healthcare Foundation trust us to operate this new clinic,” Gould said. “His [Johnson’s] name will bring an even larger degree of publicity to our agency and to the work we do here. And hopefully, that will open some doors that were not so fully opened to us in the past. This can’t be anything but great news for us.”

AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S., and serves more than 100,000 patients overall in 22 countries. Created in 1987, the foundation generates its operating capital through its own self-created social enterprises, including AHF Pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships.

Johnson, who was still playing pro basketball in 1991 when he announced publicly that he was HIV-positive, is chairman and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation. The foundation raises funds for community-based organizations focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

“Magic Johnson is not just an outstanding businessman and a sports legend. He is also a hero to thousands because of the way he lends his name to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Gould said. “When he stepped up to declare that he was HIV-positive, he did a tremendous amount to help lessen the stigma of AIDS.”

Gould said the most important aspect of the new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Clinic at AOC is that it will “offer clients a choice.”

“I am not saying anything negative about JPS Healing Wings [HIV clinic] or the Tarrant County Health Department’s AIDS clinic. They do a great job,” Gould said. “But there are still people lining up at both those clinics every day to see a physician and get the care they need. Now there will be a paradigm shift in access to medical care in our region. Now those clients will have a choice.”

He said that the new clinic, “ideally, could see up to a thousand clients a year, once it is staffed. But I think in the first year we will see 400 to 600 patients.

What that will do is lower the number of patients going to Healing Wings and the public health clinic, and shorten those lines, that wait time. This gives those clients another opportunity to access expert, top-of-the-line, cutting edge medical care.”
Gould said the new clinic will occupy about 4,000 square feet of AOC’s facilities at 400 N. Beach St., and that it will include a pharmacy, as well.

Gould.Allan

Allan Gould

“This new clinic will offer medical treatment and prescriptions, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay,” Gould said. “That’s a huge element that we will be bringing to the table that has not been previously available” in Tarrant County and surrounding rural counties AOC serves.

Gould said AHF first approached AOC officials about five months ago, and that AOC officials “were really honored” to be considered as the site of a new AHF clinic.

“It is something we have wanted to do for some time,” Gould said. “Having a clinic has long been an integral part of our mission, and when we moved to our new location here on Beach Street, we did so hoping that the additional square footage this new space gives us would give us the chance to have a clinic.”

But even after they were approached by AHF, “we took our time and did our due diligence,” Gould said. “It takes times to figure out if you want to be a federally qualified health care clinic or go a different route. You have to look at all the parameters involved and all the different permits and licenses you have to have. It can become quite daunting.”

Even when they announced the letter of intent in September, he said, details were still being negotiated. That’s why when AHF CEO Michael Weinstein said during his visit to Fort Worth last month that he would love to see the new clinic open on Feb. 14, 2012, “our jaws just dropped to the floor,” Gould said.

“Even under the best circumstances, the process of getting [construction] permits and rearranging the existing offices — opening by Valentine’s Day simply was not feasible.”

Still, Gould said, word of the new clinic is already getting around and “We are already getting resumés for physicians who want to come and run this clinic, from nurse practitioners and others who want to work here.

“This truly is a huge event for Tarrant County,” Gould continued. “I know there are a number of community health care clinics in Dallas, but this will be the first one in our area that isn’t run by a major medical facility. The role that AOC has been trying to foster for some time is now coming to fruition, and that speaks volumes about the respect we have built up.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Knowledge is power

Dr.-Sam-Ho-photo

Dr. Sam Ho

A generation of young people have never known a world without AIDS, but their complacency means new infections continue

People who weren’t yet born when AIDS first emerged are today most at risk for becoming HIV positive — an alarming development that underscores how essential awareness is, especially as we approach World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

From 2006 to 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the HIV incidence rate for Americans between 13 and 29 years old increased by about 21 percent. In fact, most of the new HIV infections reported in this country involve people under 30.

Americans under 30 have never known a world without AIDS. At the same time, they’ve never really known a time when effective treatment for HIV and AIDS wasn’t available. This hasn’t always been the case. As this disease turns 30, we need to ensure that people — especially younger people — remain aware of AIDS and how to prevent it.

AIDS awareness is one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to prevent it. After 30 years of addressing what was once considered one of America’s most pressing health problems, AIDS is no longer front page news. But on this World AIDS Day, let’s not forget that about 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, according to the CDC, and that more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS die each year.

Thanks to more effective and more available treatments, more Americans who have HIV and AIDS are able to live. The CDC estimates this number at more than 1 million nationwide. Regularly testing people most at risk for HIV — and then providing antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients — dramatically reduces the number of new infections.

Preventing HIV is not complicated. If you’re sexually active, get tested. Don’t use IV drugs or share needles. Abstain or practice safer sex.

With preventive care, patients and their health care providers can fight and manage this disease and slow its spread. But we can’t allow today’s more effective treatments to make us complacent or ambivalent, or to lessen our resolve to find a cure.

To learn more or to find a place near you to get tested, visit ActAgainstAIDS.org.

Dr. Sam Ho, M.D., is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Taylor was early and tireless HIV/AIDS advocate

Actress will ‘stand for history on a podium above everyone else’

SANDY COHEN  |  AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — Elizabeth Taylor was as well known for her AIDS advocacy as she was for her acting.

She was the first celebrity to speak out on the mysterious and socially divisive disease in the 1980s, calling for research, compassionate care and an end to discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.

“I kept seeing all these news reports on this new disease and kept asking myself why no one was doing anything,” Taylor once recalled. “And then I realized that I was just like them. I wasn’t doing anything to help.”

She got involved with AIDS activism in 1985 and worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for the rest of her life, said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, where Taylor held early fundraisers for AIDS research.

“There have been a lot of incredible warriors in the fight, but she will stand for history on a podium above everyone else,” he said, adding that Taylor had seen firsthand how her friend, Rock Hudson, had lost his battle with AIDS.

In 1985, when the government had done little to educate people about the disease and nurses were afraid to deliver food trays to AIDS patients in hospitals, Taylor, along with a group of physicians, helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

“This was long before celebrities routinely performed or worked with charities… and the cause she selected was a disease Americans were frightened about,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just as if she took the risk of attaching her celebrity status to a cause. She picked the most controversial cause at the time. But she was like, ‘I have friends who are dying and I have to do something, and what I can do is help raise money and help raise awareness.”

Taylor, as chairwoman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, visited Capitol Hill to demand that the government live up to its promise to spend nearly $1 billion a year to help people with AIDS with the Ryan White Care Act. She and other stars befriended Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana who, as a hemophiliac, got HIV through a contaminated blood transfusion, was expelled from school because of his infection and became one of the disease’s most prominent early victims.

AmfAR leaders on Wednesday called Taylor “one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS.”

“She was profoundly instrumental in helping us identify the resources which have led to the research that has improved and extended the lives of those with HIV and AIDS,” said Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of amfAR, which has invested more than $300 million towards AIDS research. “She served actively on our board up until the day she died,” Frost said.

Taylor testified on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s and convinced legislators to care about the disease, Thompson said.

“Every senator showed up. The rooms were packed and people were spellbound,” he said. “She connected HIV and AIDS to a generation that felt itself immune, the over-50 folks. Because Elizabeth Taylor was talking about it, people like my mother were reading about HIV and AIDS.”

Taylor put a public — and beloved — face on the disease.

“At a time when most Americans thought of HIV/AIDS as something that didn’t affect them, her commitment to the issue and considerable star power helped to take the fight against HIV/AIDS right into the mainstream of American society,” said Don Blanchon, who oversees the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., which named its main facility after Taylor in 1993.

Magic Johnson, who put his own face on the disease when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, tweeted his gratitude to Taylor on Wednesday.

“Elizabeth, thank you for all your help in the battle for HIV and AIDS,” he wrote. “You will be missed by the world.”

In 1991, the actress founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which has given more than $12 million to organizations across the country that provide direct care and services to people living with the disease.

Elton John praised his fellow AIDS advocate and entertainer as “a Hollywood giant … and an incredible human being.”

“She earned our adoration for her stunning beauty and for being the very essence of glamorous movie stardom,” John said in a statement Wednesday. “And she earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign said Taylor didn’t just fight for those with HIV and AIDS; she fought for equality for all.

“At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Dame Taylor fearlessly raised her voice to speak out against injustice,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Dame Taylor was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve.”

The group recognized Taylor with its Vanguard Award in 2000. “What it comes down to, ultimately, is love,” she said in accepting the honor. “How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.”

Taylor died Wednesday from congestive heart failure. She was 79.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Elizabeth Taylor in Dallas

Elizabeth Taylor, second from left, and AIDS Services of Dallas Executive Director Don Maison, far right, at Dillard’s at NorthPark Center in Dallas in 1996. (Dallas Voice file photos)

Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who died today at 79, was a founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Taylor was also chairwoman of amFAR in 1989 when the foundation provided a $100,000 grant that was used to start Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic. From the Dallas Morning News on Friday, April 28, 1989:

Leaders of the Dallas AIDS Resource Center announced Thursday that the agency had received a $100,000 grant to set up an AIDS research facility that will offer experimental drugs to people suffering from the deadly disease.

“This is a vital component that has been missing in Dallas,’ said William Waybourn, president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, which operates the resource center.

The grant, awarded by the American Foundation for AIDS Research, will establish a community clinic for AIDS research allowing AIDS patients to benefit from experimental treatments. The only other cities with such community research initiatives, as they are called, are New York and San Francisco.

“The need in Texas is particularly great for this type of research program,’ said Dr. Mathilde Krim, co-founder of the AIDS research foundation, which is based in New York. “There is virtually no clinical research being done in Texas. This will be the only opportunity for AIDS patients to get (experimental) drugs.’

The foundation divided $1.4 million among 16 community-based organizations for development of similar AIDS research programs. Groups in Austin and Houston also received grants.

In Dallas, plans are being made to open the Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic for AIDS Research this summer at 4012 Cedar Springs Road, next door to the AIDS Resource Center’s offices. The center is named after Bill Nelson, a former president of the Gay Alliance, who has AIDS, and Terry Tebedo, a leader in the AIDS education movement who died from the disease in January 1988.

Later, Taylor would come to Dallas in 1996 and issue checks totaling $15,000 to Bryan’s House and AIDS Services of Dallas. Taylor visited Dillard’s in NorthPark Center to promote her new perfume, Elizabeth Taylor Black Pearls, and presented the checks to the AIDS services organizations at the end of the event. More pics after the jump.

—  John Wright

Offering HIV patients a new look

Cosmetic surgeon Anthony Caglia specializes in working with patients to reduce the effects of wasting syndrome

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

An ever-evolving array of HIV/AIDS medications has transformed what was once a terminal illness that claimed its victims quickly into a chronic ailment that has to be managed long term — allowing people with HIV/AIDS to live much longer, much healthier lives.

But those medications come with a price. For many HIV/AIDS patients, that price is AIDS Wasting Syndrome, the involuntary loss of more than 10 percent of body weight accompanied by more than 30 days of either diarrhea or weakness and fever.

The syndrome also includes lipoatrophy, the gradual loss of fatty tissue and collagen in the face that results in sunken cheeks and deep lines in the face. As collagen production slows, the cheekbones slowly begin to protrude.

For some, that may seem a small price to pay. But for many others, lipoatrophy can have a significant impact on self-esteem, and that, in turn, can seriously impact a patient’s overall health.

But medical science has found ways to address the issue, and Richardson cosmetic surgeon Anthony Caglia is one of those that specializes in fighting the effects of lipoatrophy.

Caglia works with facial fillers and serves on the HIV Advisory Board of Suneva Medical Inc., a company that manufactures the filler Artefill.

Artefill is approved to correct wrinkles around the smile lines but may have applications for other parts of the face such as the cheeks, Caglia said. In fact, Caglia pioneered the use of facial fillers such as Artefill on persons with AIDS Wasting Syndrome.

Caglia said that he usually uses a filler to create thicker skin to replace the lost fat. Then he uses a product to stimulate the body to produce its own natural collagen.

“Artefill has microspheres in it and it doesn’t biodegrade,” Caglia said. That makes the product a longterm solution.

Caglia said that in contrast, Sculptura, a similar product, is a biostimulator. The particles biodegrade over two years, but it stimulates the body to create its own new collagen.

He said that using facial fillers like Artefill gives some quick results but “takes from five to eight months” to get back to their previous appearance.

“And they might need touch-ups” — or “maintenance” — “in 12 to 16 months,” the doctor added.
Caglia said most people he sees with HIV have undetectable viral loads but he said that people with low T-cell counts do just as well.

Costs

The treatment is expensive. Artefill, for example, costs $1,200 per syringe. The number needed varies per person.

“One patient had 13 syringes and two more since then,” Caglia said.

But he said there are patient assistance programs underwritten by the manufacturers of the products.

Generally, people with income under $40,000 can get on an assistance program and treatment is prorated with incomes up to $100,000.

Caglia suggested that even those who never considered cosmetic treatment because of the cost may qualify.

Medicaid is beginning to look at these treatments as more than cosmetic and is looking at covering the procedure for some persons with HIV, he said. And as government programs begin to cover it, private insurance carriers find it harder to deny coverage.

For others, payment plans are available.

The benefits

As people with HIV live longer with better medications and return to work, Caglia said, the facial filler treatments serve more than vanity. They may help someone get a job.

Caglia talked about one of his patients who was leading an OK life, but not looking good. But then at Parkland, the man heard someone say something that spurred him to inquire about treatment: “Oh, there’s one of those gay guys.”

He knew it was because of his gaunt, sunken cheeks.

Another patient slipped him Caglia’s card and said, “Someone takes care of this.”

Most people just get used to that look until someone else points it out to them.

Complications from treatment with fillers may include bumps and nodules, Caglia said, but added, “It’s about technique.”

Treatment takes about an hour and Caglia said he is very methodical, massaging the product evenly through the skin and agitating the cells to produce new collagen and avoid the bumps that occur when the product is not administered properly.

“There’s an artistry in reshaping the face,” the doctor said.

Dr. Anthony Caglia, Derm Aesthetics and Laser Center, 670 W. Campbell Road, Suite 150, Richardson. www.dermlasercenter.net. 972-690-7070.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright