The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force has hired a director to lead its new medical clinic in East Liberty.
According to task force officials, Dr. Sarah McBeth is an internal medicine specialist who received some of her clinical training in the midst of the HIV epidemic in Africa.
In a statement, McBeth said seeing the AIDS epidemic firsthand in Beira, Mozambique convinced her that HIV is one of the world’s most pressing health issues.
"HIV medicine is challenging because it requires addressing stigma, psycho-social issues, sexual concerns and health systems navigation, all while managing concomitant health problems," McBeth said. "But the same things that make it a challenge make it incredibly rewarding."
In Pittsburgh, McBeth will be leading a new clinic providing HIV treatment and sexual health care. She’ll also work to prevent the transmission of HIV by administering medication before at-risk patients are exposed to the virus in a process known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Jason Herring, director of programs and communication at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, said McBeth has focused on hepatitis, one of many illnesses that HIV-positive individuals are at a greater risk of contracting.
“So the idea is that not only will we be able to offer medical care to our patients, who are HIV positive, but that any other problems they may have that’s associated with HIV, like hepatitis – they’ll be able to get treatment from her as well,” Herring said.
Herring said the idea to start the task force's first-ever medical clinic sprang from the challenges of treating an aging HIV-positive population.
“As people age with HIV, they’re developing different issues that are usually associated with people that are much older, so: bone density issues, mental capacity issues, heart disease issues," Herring said. "There’s a lot of different issues, so we were seeing the need for more care.”
Herring said McBeth is now helping with the hiring of other medical professionals at the clinic.
Herring said the medical clinic is set to open by Oct. 1 on Penn Avenue. He said it will serve the Task Force’s 700 HIV-positive patients, plus those who are at risk for HIV and other sexual infections.