The Agility of the AETC Program: Mobilizing a National Network to Address Healthcare Professionals' Needs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the end of the national and public health emergency declarations for COVID-19 on May 11, 2023, it's a good time to reflect on the journey we started nearly three years ago. The outbreak of a new and unknown disease brought many challenges, but for some, it was not their first pandemic experience. The AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Program - the training arm of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program - was able to respond quickly to healthcare professionals' emerging training needs during the COVID-19 crisis, leveraging its expertise, infrastructure, and reach into communities across the country. With over 35 years of providing training on HIV screening, diagnosis, treatment, and care, as well as experience in addressing similar syndemics and related health inequities, the AETCs were swiftly able to address the needs of healthcare professionals.

Early in 2020, the AETCs began responding to providers training needs around the developing pandemic. Then in the Spring of 2020, the AETCs received Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to provide up-to-date, clinically accurate information on COVID-19 transmission, safety measures, testing, treatment, and vaccination. Integral to the success of these trainings was the AETC link to local experts and the capacity to reach providers rapidly with developing information and ability to pivot from in-person instruction to entirely virtual instruction to provide education and capacity building for healthcare professionals to effectively provide virtual patient care. 

AETC Program directors from national and regional centers drafted a report documenting the successes and lessons learned in disseminating COVID-19 prevention and care training to the healthcare community. Highlights from the initial six-month period of funding (April 1, 2020-Sept 30, 2020) include:

  • Over 600 e-learning events implemented
  • Over 1,200 technical assistance hours provided
  • Over 5,200 tele-consultations provided
  • Over 20,000 healthcare professionals trained
  • Healthcare professionals from all disciplines reached across the eight regional AETCs
  • A COVID-19 resource library for healthcare professionals created

This report underscores the AETC Program's unique capabilities, agility, and reach, which can be applied to future public health emergencies and concerns, and positions the AETC Program as a critical national resource for continued development and maintenance of the public health workforce for HIV and related public health priorities. Read the full report.

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