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December 01, 2023

Every day is ‘World AIDS Day’ for IU Health LifeCare case manager

Every day is ‘World AIDS Day’ for IU Health LifeCare case manager

Elizabeth “Liz” Schey’s “office” is a whole community with various needs.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

On any given day, Elizabeth “Liz” Schey could be meeting someone for breakfast, calling on social service agencies, or distributing winter coats. There is no typical day for this IU Health LifeCare case manager.

As the state’s largest provider of HIV treatment and medical prevention services, LifeCare team members treat not only patients; but also residents. Healthcare services include confidential HIV testing (including free rapid testing); health assessments and physical exams, comprehensive treatment plans, lab work, immunizations and vaccinations, and access to community referrals. A team of caregivers includes nurse practitioners, infectious disease physicians, licensed social workers, clinical pharmacists, and a variety of professional support staff.

LifeCare led the way introducing the first FDA-approved, long-acting injectable HIV treatment for adults, consisting of two shots administered monthly. The IU Health provider also became the first to offer a fully automated universal HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) screening tool in emergency departments.

But what about those who don’t come to the treatment center or hospital? That’s where Schey comes in.

Today, December 1, is “World AIDS Day,” an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who've died of the disease.

Schey knows that the root of spreading awareness goes beyond a particular clinic or treatment center. She knows that the challenges go beyond education and prevention.

“My goal is to focus on clients individually, supporting them with whatever they need,” said Schey who joined IU Health in 2019 as a pharmacy technician. Two year later, she transitioned to case management with LifeCare. Working closely with social workers, Schey spends time in the community identifying specific gaps in care. That could mean assistance with transportation, housing, or employment.

Her role is consistent with the goals of the US Department of Health and Human Services initiative, “Ending the HIV Epidemic” (EHE). Implemented in 2019, the initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections in the US by 90 percent by 2023 by boosting HIV prevention and treatment strategies.

To offer prevention and education, means reaching those people living with HIV - some who are undiagnosed - and to help them overcome barriers to care.

“Conversations became ‘what can we do outside of what we’ve been doing to catch people who fall out of care or don’t enter care.’ We decided to focus on retention and re-engagement of care,” said Schey.

For one client who had fallen behind in care, Schey reached out through a weekly breakfast meeting. Eventually, breakfast resulted in helping the individual with life skills, and job applications. She’s not afraid to seek them out of abandon buildings or on the streets.

“I meet them where they are - both physically, and in life,” said Schey. “I have clients needing food or housing. So I may connect them with a food pantry or provide them with a bus pass to the grocery store. All the needs are different.” Some clients have complicated conditions outside of HIV and I may go with them to their doctor appointments to act as an advocate.”

In addition to all of the healthcare professionals with LifeCare, Schey partners with outside organizations such as Step-Up, an agency that offers comprehensive HIV care and resources. In November, Schey joined other organizations in a “community day” offering free HIV and HEP testing, flu shots, blood sugar screenings and basic medical checks. She also co-chaired a winter coat drive distributing more than 300 winter coats.

“I’m always surprised when I talk to people about the needs for education and prevention and they say, ‘I didn’t know HIV was still a thing,’” said Schey. “It never went away and that’s why we need to continue to talk, act, raise awareness and dispel myths.”

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