Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Foundation announced their 2013 Innovation Fellows. Out of a pool of 180 original proposals, AIDSCare Ocean State's Medical Director, Dr. Lynn E. Taylor, physician, researcher and public health advocate was chosen for a $300,000 grant for her exceptional work in the hepatitis-c virus (HCV) field. The program, "RI Defeats HepC" goal is to eliminate hepatitis C in Rhode Island. Taylor believes this goal is attainable if we act now, "It is the convergence of silence, lack of awareness of hepatitis C and the stigma of the disease that will lead to be a tidal wave of hepatitis C-related suffering and death in the next few years if we don't act now," she said.
Currently, there are limited resources available to persons with hepatitis C, and limited information on where to get tested. The lack of federal funding has pushed hepatitis C into the closet and Dr. Taylor is ready to bust open the door. With the development of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation that persons born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested for hepatitis C, rapid HCV testing, and the revolution in HCV medications, Dr. Taylor believes the goal of eliminating hepatitis C is attainable. "Hepatitis C is one of the only viruses that can be cured. Rhode Island is unique because we're a small state,we have a great health department and many community based programs," she said.
The grant is composed of five parts: first, a public awareness campaign that is comprised of a poster campaign for "RI Defeats Hep C." Local artists can submit posters to be juried by famous contemporary artist, Shepard Fairey. Next, Dr. Taylor is working with Barnaby Evans to host a Hep C Awareness Waterfire on Saturday,July 26, 2014 to coincide with World Hepatitis Day on July 28th. Lastly, she will be working to design "RI Defeats Hep C" wearable items to build solidarity in the community. The second part is to ensure enhanced screening for hepatitis C is available through ACOS. Our long time commitment to Hep C awareness and our advanced, knowledgeable staff makes ACOS the perfect partner for the RI Defeats Hep C program. Dr. Taylor wants ACOS to be the first place in Rhode Island to offer free viral load confirmatory testing, which is the only way to definitively determine if you have hepatitis C. Steps three and four, ACOS is hiring a Hepatitis C Navigator to help people receive the resources and care they need. Taylor stresses the need for an increased care capacity: how to get people who have hepatitis C into care,treated in large numbers and cured with new drugs that will soon be available. Finally, we need to evaluate our work to ensure we're reaching the most people and saving money for Rhode Island.
We congratulate Dr. Lynn Taylor for being selected as one of the 2013 Innovation Fellows and for being a visionary in the field of hepatitis C awareness and treatment and look forward to kicking off the "RI Defeats Hep C" program.For more information about the 2013 Rhode Island Innovation fellows and about Dr. Lynn Taylor, go here.