The role we play in HCV elimination here at Glide is mostly comprised of heavily testing folks in the community for Hepatitis C as well as health systems navigation services.
In the times before COVID-19, we were executing community testing events that allowed us to test an average of 150-200 folks a month throughout the city of San Francisco. During those testing events, our job was to identify folks who tested positive for the virus and follow through with linkage to care. Once our clients were linked to a provider for treatment, we offered navigation services to help folks successfully complete their Hep C treatments by offering support wherever needed to break through any barriers preventing them from doing so. A large part of our department’s work was done through conducting outreach and working in community settings.
COVID-19 has really affected our ability to test at such a large scale, and at the very beginning it definitely put a halt to all our navigation and testing services. We were, however, still able to provide harm reduction services through our Syringe Access Services program which allowed us to maintain relationships with HCV+ clients who access those services. Slowly, we were able to reintroduce our navigation services and we began providing our one-on-one services in a modified manner while taking all the recommended precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The very last service we reintroduced was our HIV and Hep C testing services.
We currently have a window of testing from 2pm – 4pm every day of the week. Additionally, this month was the first time we extended our testing services out into the community since the beginning of SIP by collaborating with Project Homeless Connect, where we were invited to test at their new location during their drop-in hours. I believe that our work in HCV, but more specifically in Harm Reduction, allowed us to easily adjust to the changes that needed to happen when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We work with a population that typically lives a chaotic lifestyle, so adjusting to change is actually the norm for us. We are constantly faced with difficult and ever-evolving circumstances that affect our clients’ lives, therefore we have developed the muscle to think creatively around how to help problem-solve and keep moving forward. Thus, our flexibility allowed for a smooth transition into adjusting our services to respond to this pandemic. Additionally, we were already trained and prepared to work with infectious diseases, so most of the recommended health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID were precautions we were already implementing when providing services. Now, of course, those precautions have intensified.
Moving forward, we will certainly be adopting new models of providing services, such as providing storefront services out of the ground floor.
End Hep C SF are running a series of blogs on how COVID-19 and today’s climate has changed our hepatitis C work in all areas. If you’re like to submit a blog please email info (at) endhepcsf (dot) org.