An HIV/AIDS medical clinic is operating in Washington, focusing not only on assisting people who are HIV positive, but testing for the virus and preventing those at high risk from contracting it.
Central Outreach Wellness Center South opened three months ago at 95 Leonard Ave., Washington. It is in Suite 203 in an office building adjacent to Washington Hospital, but it is not affiliated with the facility. For now, the center is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Walk-ins are accepted.
Initial screenings for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases is conducted at the clinic, and is covered by the state Department of Health. Central Outreach is filling a need in the Washington area, which did not have an STD clinic since one closed more than a year ago.
Nurse practitioner Carol Priest of Arden is running the office. She is assisted by Braden Bash, who has been trained as a physician assistant and is waiting to take his boards.
“We hope to be open Monday through Friday by summer,” Priest said.
Stacy Lane, a physician and Washington & Jefferson College graduate, opened the clinic by appointment only in December. It is a “satellite” of the Central Outreach Wellness Center she launched two years ago – and still operates – on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, near the Andy Warhol Museum. She said there was an urgent need for the Washington facility.
“We noticed there were more than 50 people driving from West Virginia to the North Shore, and that wasn’t counting Washington and Canonsburg folks,” Lane said.
“There were no STD options in that area. There was a huge deficit.”
That deficit was underscored by the drug crisis that engulfed the region in recent times. “HIV can be transmitted by drug use,” Priest said.
A major weapon being used to combat HIV, Priest said, is a pill called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and has the brand name Truvada. It was used as a treatment for HIV, but is now used as a preventative for people who have been diagnosed as HIV negative and others who are at high risk of getting the virus. “These are people who use (intravenous) drugs and share needles, gay men not using condoms,” Lane said.
PrEP, according to results, has been a huge success.
“Of 200,000 people who were HIV negative and are on that pill, there have been only three cases of HIV,” Lane said.
Lane specializes in infectious diseases and was motivated to do so years ago. An uncle died from AIDS while she was in high school and pondering a medical career.
Priest likewise is an experienced health-care professional, including 19 years in STD care. She ran a women’s health clinic at Millcraft Center in Washington and was employed at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, when Lane offered her this job in December. They had met at Magee when Lane was working for the Allegheny County Health Department.
Because the Washington clinic is relatively new, “our patient population is not that big,” Priest said. To raise awareness, she is reaching out to the LGBT community, college organizations and other groups.
“Patients need to know about us.”