Established in 2003, Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS, affectionately referred to as a.l.p.h.a., has been Idaho’s premier community-based, not for profit sexual health site. With the mission of “providing a safe and welcoming place to go for HIV and AIDS education, testing, and support in Idaho”, a group of dedicated community members joined together and opened a.l.p.h.a.’s first set of doors, located above a locally owned and deeply supportive coffee shop. At this time, services were primarily focused on basic HIV education and prevention, as well as providing a place for persons living with HIV to come together and build support networks. Educational programming and presentations began occurring on a regular basis in area schools, religious centers, community centers, and even through state-wide media efforts.
Not long after inception, a.l.p.h.a. began the process of obtaining a CLIA waiver, as well as becoming registered with the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories. Once accomplished, a.l.p.h.a. became the first community based agency to offer rapid HIV testing, utilizing the OraQuick ® testing device, free of charge, to those individuals and populations most in need of such services. Based on the success and efficacy of this option, a.l.p.h.a. reviewed and signed what would be the first of many HIV prevention contracts with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW).
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was promoting a “blanket” testing attitude (before the implementation of High Impact Prevention) a.l.p.h.a. found most its clients to be part of various minority/risk groups/populations, with a large percentage of men who have sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users (IVDU).
As a.l.p.h.a. continued to develop a strong presence in the HIV epidemic center of Idaho, it identified additional needs in both testing and support. Testing gaps were filled with evolving testing practices as technology improved and offering extra-genital chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings (based on individual risk criteria).
Enhancing support services for persons living with HIV was a bit trickier, as many vital supportive services were already being provided by the local Ryan White Part C clinic. In response, a.l.p.h.a. established a choice food pantry, exclusively to households with at least one member living with HIV. The vision was to provide supplemental, nutritious foods to those most needing assistance.
Between 2013 and 2014, a.l.p.h.a. found itself needing to find new accommodations as HIV prevention funding continued to dwindle and become more regimented. This search ended with finding residence in what was once Boise’s Carnegie Library, sharing the building with a preeminent law firm, and answering to the neighboring Episcopalian Church as landlords.
Late 2015 brought another significant change to a.l.p.h.a. by means of a new Executive Director. He immediately went to work refining and enhancing pre-existing services while implementing new services. Since his arrival a.l.p.h.a. has begun administering immediate access to confirmatory HIV and syphilis testing by maintain a full-time phlebotomist, administering comprehensive extra-genital screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea, while also piloting a Rapid Syphilis Health Check testing and at-home HIV testing program through Memorandums of Agreement with Idaho. a.l.p.h.a. also started offering sample collection and laboratory based services for persons already prescribed, or wishing to initiate PrEP therapy.
Annually a.l.p.h.a. now provides clinical services to over 1300 unique individuals, a 250% growth compared to previous years. Newly identified HIV infections transition from a “preliminary positive” rapid result to an FDA approved diagnosis, and established in appropriate medical care in 7 calendar days or less. More than 100 households are served each year between HOPWA and a.l.p.h.a.’s food pantry, which distributes no less than 40,000 pounds of healthy, nutritious foods to persons living with HIV.
In 2017, a.l.p.h.a. implemented an Electronic Health Record system to facilitate a better continuity of care for all patients. Part-time PrEP Navigation and Case Management is well underway and being refined every week. a.l.p.h.a. happily accepts most major insurance plans, but NEVER turns any person away due to lack of insurance.