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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Ally Care Center: A Beacon of Hope

Posted By: Advancing Care

Living with HIV comes with a unique set of challenges, from physical health battles to social stigma. With nearly half of the HIV-positive population now over the age of 50, patients face additional age-related obstacles, including a higher rate of comorbidities, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis,  cognitive impairments, mental health concerns and social isolation. Addressing these challenges requires a whole-person approach that encompasses holistic healthcare, social support and advocacy to ensure HIV-positive people are equipped to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

Enter: The Ally Care Center at Westchester Medical Center.

Rebecca Glassman, MD
Rebecca Glassman, MD

“Our goal is to be a beacon of hope — a safe space for patients of all ages and backgrounds,” says Rebecca Glassman, MD, medical director of the Ally Care Center. “Prioritizing inclusivity and eliminating stigma are at the core of our comprehensive primary care services, especially for those living with HIV.”

As the recent recipient of grant funding aimed at finding new and creative ways to care for the aging HIV population, the Ally Care Center is actively invested in meeting these patients’ nuanced needs. Dr. Glassman and other Ally Care Center leaders lean on everything from pilot studies to screening tools, such as ICOPE, to identify and improve areas of deficit including memory, mood, vision, hearing and mobility.  

“Through our research and work with patients, we’ve found that memory and mood are two of the biggest areas affecting aging HIV-positive individuals,” shares Dr. Glassman. “To that end, we’ve developed a memory skills-building group, which incorporates peer support and practical techniques for overcoming both memory- and mood-related issues. We also advocate for very simple changes that can have a major impact, such as increasing the font size on prescription bottles to help patients adhere to their medication regimen and ultimately reduce their viral load.” 

Another central focus of the center is improving communication with long-term care facilities and short-term rehabilitation centers. Dr. Glassman has found that when patients are shuffled from the hospital to rehab, or during extended stays at long-term care facilities, there is often a notable lapse in communication between these providers and the patients’ primary care teams.  

Inspired by care models such as Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), the Ally Care Center hopes to bridge this gap and create a collaborative approach where all providers are in constant contact and can help patients stick to a medication routine, plan for discharge and equip their homes accordingly. 

Beyond HIV care and prevention, the Ally Care Center at Westchester Medical Center offers a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including medical providers, psychologists, counselors and case managers to administer a range of primary care services. The team helps to ensure patients receive the treatment they need, whether that’s HIV-specific care, HIV prevention, gender-affirming hormone therapy, integrated mental health support or assistance with insurance, medications, housing, transportation and community resources. 

“Our patients consider the Ally Care Center their medical home,” says Dr. Glassman. “They come to us to celebrate their highs, to seek assistance during their lows—they want to share their life experiences and get advice from those they consider to be safe resources.”

With its patient-centered focus, commitment to education and inclusivity, and community engagement and collaboration, the Ally Care Center empowers patients to lead fulfilling lives while advocating for an end to HIV stigma. Explore everything the center has to offer and make an appointment by calling 914.493.7700.