Donna E. Sweet, MD, MACP, AAHIVS
University of Kansas, School of Medicine
After completing her medical schooling at the University of Kansas, School of Medicine in Wichita, Sweet went on to practice medicine at the very same place. She has been treating people living with HIV since 1983 and has spent the entirety of her medical career in practice at the University of Kansas, School of Medicine in Wichita. Today, her medical practice association, which specializes in General Internal Medicine and HIV care, is comprised of two physicians, three advanced practice registered nurses, and one physician assistant. On any given day, Sweet sees 20 outpatient visits with a combination of HIV-infected patients and internal medical primary care. She notes that the percentage of HIV-infected patients she sees over the age of 50 has increased steadily over the years and the internal medicine practice has seen an increase in patients over the age of 70. “This was an underserved, stigmatized population with a fascinating disease that needed care,” says Sweet when asked what motivated her to pursue specializing in HIV care.
Getting into HIV care, education, and advocacy early in the epidemic has given Sweet unique and valuable insights and perspectives that she has graciously shared with AAHIVM for years.
Sweet motivates her patients to adhere to their treatment regimens by providing ample information about the importance of adherence and great praise when they do well, particularly when their virus becomes undetectable because of strong adherence to treatment. Says Sweet, “The most rewarding part is seeing patients with HIV do well over long periods of time.” There are several unique and successful practices that Sweet and her team have implemented to improve retention rates and access to care. For instance, they have a staff person who focuses completely on patients who are lost to care, meaning they have not been seen for 6 months or more. This staffer has been very successful in locating these patients through a variety of resources and has decreased the rate of patients lost to care significantly. Additionally, Sweet and her team travel every six to eight weeks to three sites in rural Kansas to see patients living in those areas. They are “hosted” by a variety of health care settings but manage these patients’ care from their home site in Wichita with the assistance of local area HIV case managers in these rural locations.
Sweet says the greatest obstacle she faces as an HIV care provider is the financial barriers to keeping patients in care. To that end, Sweet is an ardent supporter of the Ryan White Care Act and hopes to continue to see it reauthorized and appropriated. Looking to the future, Sweet envisions HIV care will be much more integrated into primary care settings.
In her free time, which is scarce, Sweet enjoys playing golf, though she wants to get her handicap back down. When asked why she is an AAHIVM Member, which she has been since the organization’s inception in 2001, Sweet says, “Scott Hitt, the founder of AAHIVM, wouldn’t leave me alone until I joined! He wanted me to build and chair the Mountain Plains Chapter of AAHIVM, which I have done for over a decade now.” In addition to serving as Chair of AAHIVM’s Mountain Plains Chapter, Sweet has spent several years as the Chair of AAHIVM’s National Board of Directors. Her unwavering commitment to AAHIVM and its mission has been key in AAHIVM’s ever-growing reach and influence. Much of AAHIVM’s current ability to provide cutting-edge HIV educational content and to shape public policy to benefit HIV care providers can been credited to Sweet’s excellent leadership of the organization.
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