The scope of HIV/AIDS treatment in America has changed immensely in recent years across the pharmacy landscape. Roosevelt University's College of Pharmacy (RUCOP) is helping to highlight this shift in its updated HIV/AIDS care and training program. 

RUCOP has been selected as a site for the Midwest Integration of the National HIV Curriculum (MINHC) project and is 1 of 6 accredited health professions' programs in Illinois. Moreover, it is among 24 programs in the Midwest that will systematically integrate for the first time into existing coursework the National HIV Curriculum e-learning platform. 

Professor Jason Alegro, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP, an infectious disease clinical pharmacist at Mount Sinai in Chicago, Illinois, has been with the MINHC program since its beginning in the fall of 2018, after he became interested in the early stages of its development. He became a professor of the integrated course for the fall semester of 2019 and hopes to continue in this role for years to come. 

Alegro said that he has seen firsthand the treatment of HIV/AIDS transform in a positive way due to significant advancements in the therapeutic options for these patients.

"In the years of my practice, the drugs that are treating patients with HIV are so effective that someone who has HIV and takes medications appropriately has nearly the same lifespan of someone who doesn't have HIV," Alegro said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. 
 


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As the drugs that currently treat HIV have become much more effective, they have also been proven to be safer for patients long-term than were prior HIV treatment regimens. For example, 1 pill a day is now sufficient for a patient to receive a highly effective dose that controls the disease. 

"For my students, this is a medical revolution. We have transformed a disease that was essentially a death sentence after diagnosis to a chronic, manageable condition," Alegro said. 

Using his expertise in infectious diseases, Alegro's cutting-edge course ties in the standard curriculum of HIV, which covers the pathophysiology and treatment of myriad comorbid conditions, with modernized content. 

This includes: 
  • New lectures on the development, use, and impact of antiretrovirals.
  • Demographics on the modern patient population, including women, miniorities, and opioid users.
  • A review of case studies at a final workshop in which RUCOP students reflect on their coursework and offer solutions.

According to Alegro, many students come into the course with a perception of HIV being a difficult, daunting condition to deal with in the pharmacy because they may feel uncomfortable when interacting with patients. However, past students who have completed this course can now say otherwise. 

May Alebraheem, PharmD candidate at RUCOP, said she feels more confident in her treatment of patients with HIV after completing Alegro's HIV course.

"Looking back at HIV, it was a major stigma to deal with regarding mortality rates, but the progress we are seeing currently is revolutionary," Alebraheem said in an email to Pharmacy Times®. "Now, knowing how to tailor the regimens specifically to the patient is not only good for adherence, but it makes us stand out as strong candidates and future pharmacists to drive better health outcomes forward." 

PharmD candidate Sara Koehnke, who currently works for a pharmacy that specializes in HIV medications, said the lessons she has learned from Alegro's course relate to her day-to-day responsibilities.

"This course has helped me better understand the reasoning behind certain counseling points our pharmacists provide and why certain medications are dispensed more often at my site," Koehnke said in an email to Pharmacy Times®. "As a technician, I had some knowledge from our workplace trainings, but my pharmacy course helped pull a lot of pieces together, so I have a better understanding of the big picture." 

In addition to RUCOP, an evaluation of the HIV training is being done at integration sites in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, and Ohio. Although this training has been centered in the Midwest, Alegro hopes to see the program spread on a national level. 

“Since we have patients that live with HIV, they are living longer because drugs are so potent, and there is an increase in our access to medications,” Alegro said. “It is also more likely than not that the health care providers will work with HIV patients in their career.”

REFERENCE

Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy selected as site to integrate national HIV curriculum [news release]. Chicago, IL; Roosevelt University: February 3, 2020 [email]. Accessed February 13, 2020.