FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2015
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391
DPHHS to honor Montana medical providers for HIV/AIDS care
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) HIV Program will host a World AIDS Day event in the Capitol Rotunda in Helena today, Monday, December 7, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.
The event will honor two individuals who have made substantial contributions in terms of treatment or prevention of HIV disease in Montana, including Dr. Raymond Geyer of the Great Falls Clinic and Missoula’s Win Lewis, PA-C, of Partnership Health. Both will be presented with World Aids Day awards.
DPHHS HIV/STD prevention coordinator Judy Nielsen said that both have been extremely proactive in their treatment of HIV patients. “These two individuals are true champions for providing compassionate and caring HIV treatment to Montanans,” Nielsen said. “They both have really gone the extra mile, and it’s a privilege to honor them.”
Dr. Geyer will be honored for his 24 years of dedicated care to HIV patients. Specifically, Dr. Geyer led an effort to establish an offsite clinic in Great Falls that created a more convenient location for his patients to access care.
Lewis showed his dedication by recently participating in a mentorship under an HIV specialist that helped deepen his skills and knowledge of HIV treatment. He often seeks out high risk individuals in need of testing and provides vital prevention interventions.
The commemorative event will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Ryan White CARE Act, a national program that supports primary medical care and essential support services for an estimated 536,000 people every year who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources to cope with HIV disease.
Tara Veazey, Governor Steve Bullock’s Health Policy Advisor, who will speak on an additional cause for celebration: the Montana HELP Plan (Medicaid Expansion), which is projected to provide a number of low-income uninsured Montanans living with HIV with health coverage.
The guest speaker is Mary Jane Nealon, Director of Innovation at Partnership Health Center in Missoula, and avid advocate for quality HIV care. Nealon has been involved in AIDS care since the start of the epidemic as a registered nurse and HIV case manager. She will speak on the continuum of caring for those dying of AIDS in the disease’s early explosive years through the evolution of effective treatment and today’s trend toward a more holistic approach to care.
According to Peter Choi, DPHHS epidemiologist, approximately 600 persons with HIV reside in Montana. In 2014, over 400 of those received Ryan White support for medical treatment or assistance to access treatment through Partnership Health Center in Missoula or RiverStone Health in Billings and through the state and Ryan White-funded AIDS Drug Assistance Program administered by DPHHS.
Nielsen stresses that treatment for HIV infection is essential. In addition to extending the lives of those with HIV, medication lowers the level of HIV in the blood, reducing transmission of the virus. Providing medical support through programs such as Ryan White and Medicaid not only improves the health of affected individuals, it also protects others by preventing transmission of the virus.
WHAT: World AIDS Day event
WHEN: 1:30 p.m., December 7, 2015
WHERE: Capitol Rotunda
SPEAKERS/ HONORED GUESTS:
Tara Veazey, Governor Bullock’s Health Policy Advisor
Mary Jane Nealon, Director of Innovation at Partnership Health Center
Jim Murphy, DPHHS Communicable Disease Control Bureau Chief