HIV Load Research Conducted by Doctoral Student Tillison
Doctoral student and graduate assistant Ashley Tillison is working with MetroHealth Medical Center to determine the quality of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care in the greater Cleveland area, as well as to calculate estimates of community HIV load, through the Cleveland HIV Health Information Project (CHHIP).
Tillison will estimate community viral load by collecting clinical data from the majority of HIV care providers in Cuyahoga County. Understanding community viral load helps to guide outreach activities and distribution of drugs to stop the progression to full-blown AIDS and decrease spread of the disease. Additionally, the CHHIP will examine provider performance via quality care metrics and determine the overall health of HIV-infected individuals in the greater Cleveland area.
The CHHIP is a collaboration between MetroHealth Medical Center, Care Alliance, the Sisters of Charity Health System, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Lakewood Hospital and the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland.
“We’ve collected data from the community of HIV care providers, including infectious-disease physicians, nurses, social workers, outreach services and mental health services,” explains Tillison. “We’re looking not only at quality metrics, such as whether they were prescribed appropriate medications or vaccinations, but also collecting measures such as viral load. In addition, we are looking at comorbid conditions – for example, do they have diabetes or mental health issues or did they develop a malignancy as a complication,” she says.
Tillison has worked on the CHHIP continuously since September 2010, when she came to Kent State after receiving a MSPH degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where her concentration was tropical medicine. She’s working with principal investigator Ann K. Avery, M.D., infectious disease specialist at MetroHealth, along with a biostatistician and programmer. Total funding support for the study is $111,400 from the AIDS Funding Collaborative and the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation.
“Our present goal is ongoing data collection to develop a database from which multiple studies and projects can be born,” Tillison says. She expects to complete a first report later this year and plans to work on the CHHIP through May 2014. The project overall is modeled after Better Health Greater Cleveland’s care and outcome reporting for diabetes, hypertension and heart failure. “We plan to create a similar tool so that patients, researchers and the medical community can look at the engagement of care and care continuum for HIV/AIDS,” Tillison says.
“It’s been an amazing learning experience, applying what I’ve learned in class to the real world and also having the opportunity to work in the field and network with providers,” she observes.