Lydia Aoun Barakat, MD, AAHIVS
New Haven, Connecticut
As Medical Director of the Yale HIV Ambulatory Center, Dr. Lydia Aoun Barakat oversees the care of over 1,000 people living with HIV or at risk for HIV. The clinic is located at the Yale New Haven Health Academic Medical Center in New Haven, Connecticut and is home to a staff of 30 providers including advanced practice providers and trainees. The care team features a deep bench of talented professionals including pharmacists, social workers, nurses, medical assistants, administrative assistants, medical case managers and HIV counselors. They provide mental health and substance use disorder services on site. Dr. Barakat’s clinic was the first in Connecticut to provide PrEP and remains the largest clinic in the state for HIV care. Additionally, hers is the site for several clinical trials, as well as translational and clinical research.
Dr. Barakat has been providing care to people with HIV for the last 25 years. “I have the pleasure to provide direct HIV primary care to a cohort of approximately 100 people with HIV and I supervise trainees for the care of approximately 150 people with HIV,” shares Barakat. “Our patients are a mixture of young, middle aged and older. More than half of our patients with HIV are older than 50 years old. Around 40% are women. In addition, our patients with HIV come from different racial, socioeconomical, and educational backgrounds. Our new patients are young, majority men who have sex with men, and predominately Black. Almost 70% of our patients with HIV have Medicaid or Medicare and less than 5% are uninsured.”
Dr. Barakat earned her Medical Degree from the Lebanese University in Beirut, Lebanon. She completed her residency at a Yale-affiliated hospital residency program and her infectious disease fellowship at Yale University. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease and is credentialed as an HIV Specialist.
“The main reason I was compelled with HIV care was the social injustice and health inequity associated with the disease,” Barakat reflects, “In addition, HIV disease is a continuously evolving disease that is intriguing as an infectious disease. Lastly, I feel it is a privilege to be the primary care provider to my patients with HIV and establish a long-term relationship with them and their loved ones. I have patients who I have been caring for, for 25 years.” Dr. Barakat engages and empowers her patients to take control of their health. Her advice? Treat them as a person first, then treat their disease. The relationship is built on listening, caring, and trusting.
Asked about the most rewarding part of her work, Dr. Barakat shares it is seeing pregnant women living with HIV giving birth to an HIV-uninfected baby due to advancement in treatment options. Dr. Barakat’s favorite part of her job is training the next generation of physicians in HIV care and prevention. And as for challenges, “The greatest obstacle I face is the stigma associated with HIV and its impact on the social determinants of health.”
Interested in successful or unique practices that other HIV care providers can learn from, adapt, or replicate, Dr. Barakat shares that her clinic started offering a wellness visit to people with HIV over 50 years old. “During this visit, we provide several assessments such as frailty, neurocognitive, nutritional, and more. In addition, the patient will meet with the pharmacist to address polypharmacy and any potential drug-drug interactions, and with the social worker to identify any personal or social needs including discussion about goals of care.” When confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Barakat’s site implemented a telehealth program that was well received and beneficial to their patients with HIV and their families.
Being a faculty at Yale University offers Dr. Barakat unique opportunities to collaborate in cutting edge research, establish training programs such as the Yale HIV Training Track and the AIDS Education Training Center, and to expand HIV care delivery across the globe to low resource countries. Looking to the future, Dr. Barakat would like to advance her administrative and leadership role and use this platform to advance health equity for every patient in our community locally and globally. “I hope in 10 years we will have a cure for HIV and we will get to Zero. HIV treatment modalities will look different, long-acting drugs for treatment and prevention will dominate the field. However, we need to advocate for affordable drugs as well as universal and equitable access to safe and effective treatment.”
Beyond HIV care, Dr. Barakat provides consultative services in infectious disease and attends on the medical inpatient unit. She is Program Director for the Yale HIV Primary Care Track enhancing training for future physicians in internal medicine and HIV care. In the last three years, she has been involved in establishing an educational program in Liberia to develop workforce after the Ebola pandemic. Together with her partners, Dr. Barakat has created the first HIV training program in one of the largest hospitals in Liberia.
Outside of work, Dr. Barakat enjoys meditation, hiking, reading, and painting. She shares, “I love my son and my puppy and I cherish spending time with them and cooking for them!” Asked why she joined AAHIVM as an Academy Member, Dr. Barakat says, “The Academy offers a fundamental platform for HIV providers from different disciplines for education, advocacy, resources, and networking. Academy members are so dedicated to the mission of HIV care and prevention. It is very empowering to be a member with such amazing and inspiring colleagues.”
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