The AIDS epidemic is not over, and the Bailey-Boushay House, at 2720 E. Madison St., is still working hard to improve the lives of epidemic victims, just as it has for the last 15 years.
In a modern building facing Madison Street, Bailey-Boushay House was the first skilled-nursing facility in the country planned, funded, built and staffed specifically to meet the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.
When it was built in 1992 the AIDS epidemic was lethal. The nursing home lost 95 percent of its patients to death - more than half the AIDS deaths in King County each year.
Fifteen years ago, Bailey-Boushay patients would start with the facility's outpatient care, then move into the nursing home and die, said Brian Knowles, executive director of the facility. He said the average stay then in the nursing home was 30 days.
Today, the average stay is 40 days, but the big difference is that most of the patients move into the nursing home and then move out and get on with their lives.
While there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS, having the disease is not the death sentence it once was. But the change in HIV/AIDS has meant that Bailey-Boushay has had to evolve.
"Additional skills are needed," Knowles said of today's operation. In addition to knowing how to deal with patients who are actively dying, the staff also has to deal with mental health, chemical dependencies and homelessness: "It is taking in the bigger picture."
Two years ago, after seeing increasing numbers of non-HIV patients in the nursing home, Bailey-Boushay's board of directors rededicated its focus to HIV/AIDS. At the same time, facility operation was made more efficient, especially admissions, which were expanded from five days per week to seven.
"We can get someone into Bailey-Boushay House in a matter of hours, instead of a matter of days," Knowles said.
While Bailey-Boushay provides exceptional care with HIV disease, it also promotes the health, well-being and functional independence of its clients.
One of the big tasks the facility works with is helping people adhere to their HIV-medication regimen. The goal is to get "medication adherence" 95 percent of the time.
"If they miss doses or do not take them at the right time, they can develop resistance to those medications," Knowles said. "[Staying on schedule with the medications] is the most important thing for people with HIV."
AIDS patients also tend to have other health issues, so their drug regimens may involve 30 different medications per day.
Other services for outpatients include acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition services, occupational ther-apy, nursing services and a variety of support services for both patients and caregivers.
Adult Day Health, the outpatient program, is staffed by a multidisci-plinary team that includes nurses, occupational therapists, chemical dependency counselors, social workers, recreation workers, a registered dietician, psychiatrist, client advocates and volunteers.
The 35-bed nursing home allows residents and their partners and family members to assist in creating individual treatment plans.
Each resident is assigned a nurse manager, and all treatment plans are constantly monitored and evaluated to ensure appropriate care.
The facility serves approximately 200 residents per year and is operated by Virginia Mason Medical Center.
STILL A NEED
The need for Bailey-Boushay House and similair facilities is as strong as ever.
Intense effort and scientific technology have been focused on the scourge of AIDS, but although headway has been made, the disease is still rampant all over the world.
"People still die of AIDS," Knowles said. "People in the community don't know; they think [the epidemic] is handled."
Knowles said the therapies that have been developed to prolong the lives of AIDS patients have made him and the staff very happy. It means that the patients now look forward to a life beyond Bailey-Boushay.
But, he said, it's never been a gloomy place.
"Bailey-Boushay is very much a place about life," Knowles said. "It's not about death."
Volunteer opportunities are available at Bailey-Boushay House; to volunteer, call David Pavlick, at 322-5300.
For more information about Bailey-Boushay House go to www.virginia mason.org/bailey-boushay.