David Hooks, Director of Innovation at The Edge of Chaos, today was part of a Telehealth Workgroup Meeting between the Southeastern Telehealth Resource Center and the Alabama Office of Rural Development, sponsored by Ron Sparks, Director of Rural Development for the State of Alabama.
Alabama has historically been an easy target for those seeking examples of regressive policies and antiquated approaches. But speakers at the Telehealth meeting gave David Hooks reason to believe that at least in the case of HIV telemedicine, that is not true.
According to Rena Brewer, SETRC Director of the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, Inc, Alabama is leading the nation in HIV telemedicine. Telemedicine is video chatting between a doctor and a patient on a high definition video screen; it evades concerns of security and confidentiality by using 128 bit encryption. The reason why success in telemedicine is so important, particularly where HIV/AIDS treatments are concerned, is that among the population of people suffering from HIV and AIDs, poverty, lack of transportation, limited access to close medical care, and the social stigma related to a diagnosis serve as a deterrent to those who require treatment. (Southern Aids Coalition, 2014. SouthernAIDSCoalition.org.)
Currently, there are more than 14,000 Alabama residents seeking treatment for HIV and AIDS – and this number accounts only for those who are aware that they are HIV positive and actively pursuing treatment options. More than 50% of new HIV infections occurred in people between the ages of 13 and 34. (Aids Action Coalition, 2014, aidsactioncoalition.org.)
Alabama’s leadership in the area of telemedicine in treatment for HIV and AIDS is significant news not only for the state of Alabama, but also for telemedicine developments in the nation as a whole.