The February member meeting, a required component of ongoing NHC training, left me and many of my fellow NHC colleagues with much to think about. The guest speaker was a medical case manager from Action Wellness, who had prepared an hour-long presentation but was hoping for plenty of audience participation. He wanted the NHC members to steer the direction of the talk.
The topic of the presentation was the intersection between HIV treatment and the legal system. I was astonished by one particular fact: Did you know that from 1987 until 2009, immigrants with HIV/AIDS were banned from entering the United States? For 22 years, the United States treated visitors with HIV as a threat, despite continual talk about reducing the stigma of the disease. The ban particularly affected tourists and gay men, discouraging travelers and some foreigners already living in the United States from seeking testing and medical care for HIV infection. Yet by 1997, HIV/AIDS had become a manageable disease; medicine had been developed that, when taken daily, suppressed the level of HIV virus circulating in one’s body to undetectable levels, making transmission of virtually impossible. However, it wasn’t until a decade later that the ban was lifted by President Obama.
Understanding the legal, political, and social context in which healthcare decisions are made is essential to become a leader in the health field. This knowledge informs daily physician-patient interactions, enhances our understanding of the role of the pharmaceutical industry, and explains how and why funding is allocated for various types of biomedical research.
The member meetings serve as a source of ongoing training for NHC members that expand our understanding of the healthcare field and the broader context in which it exists. Each month, a guest speaker shares knowledge about an aspect of medicine or public health. Beyond the case manager from Action Wellness, professionals have covered topics such as how to provide trauma-informed care, the role of a behavioral health consultant, and the benefits of providing integrated health care. These trainings equip NHC members with the skills necessary to be successful in the healthcare field and are an introduction to a career of lifelong learning.
1 Preston, J. (2009, October 30). Obama lifts ban on entry into U.S. by H.I.V.-positive people. The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/31/us/politics/31travel.html
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). A timeline of HIV/AIDS. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/aids-timeline