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HICFA nurses honored with award on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2021

Date: November 30th, 2021 in Care, Collaboration, Community Outreach, IN THE NEWS, JABSOM News, Rural, staff, UH Manoa, Uncategorized, Workplace Hero    Print or PDF

Under the leadership of Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, Hawaii Center for AIDS (HICFA) director, the HICFA nurses have dedicated themselves to the fight against HIV/AIDS and continue to help strive for a cure. They will be honored with the 2021 Suzanne Richmond-Crum Award on World AIDS Day, December 1st. This award is presented by the Hawai’i Department of Health-Harm Reduction Services Branch to recognize those who have made “outstanding contributions in providing HIV/AIDS services.”

Cecilia Shikuma, MD.

For more than 30 years HICFA nurses have been dedicated to the fight to end HIV and its stigma. They stepped forward to uphold the values of the nursing profession in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when fear and discrimination were widespread. They have provided essential medical care to hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS. They have contributed to important research in numerous clinical trials for effective treatments and toward finding a cure.

HICFA other nurses

Some of the nurses who were on staff through the years. Composite by Paula Bender

Many of the nurses were involved with the early development of valuable antiretroviral medications. They have helped our understanding of HIV and its complications. Their work with AIDS service organizations and HIV housing programs has raised the level of health care for people living with HIV in Hawai’i.

Raymond Alejo, Community Health Nurse at Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center, and a former recipient of the Suzanne Richmond-Crum Award, said these nurses “have been and remain the pillars of healthcare workers, treating and caring for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“The gentleness and kindness they lend to our HIV community breaks down barriers of shame, and they provide a judgment-free environment.  Their patients are therefore able to access the care the nurses offer,” Alejo said. “[They] make the world a better place by their love, kindness, and the care they give to our community.”

The World Health Organization has designated 2021 the “Year of Health and Care Workers.” The nursing staff of HICFA, past and present, represents a model of dedication and self-sacrifice. It is most appropriate to recognize them this year.

HICFA and HICFA’s Clint Spencer Clinic (CSC) have always been at the forefront of HIV care. The clinic grew out of the need for comprehensive care that was often unavailable to participants in the research studies. Today approximately 500 people living with HIV/AIDS receive valuable medical services in a supportive environment from the CSC on O’ahu, Hawai’i Island, and on Maui. The current COVID pandemic reminds us of the challenges we faced when the HIV epidemic began four decades ago. Nurses were and are the frontline health care workers, taking the brunt of the care of patients.

Christine Kapi’ioho, Director of Client Services at Kumukahi Health and Wellness on Hawai’i Island, praised the Clint Spencer Clinic nurses as: “Devoted to nurturing and displaying acts of kindness, even when the patient is stressed or in pain, these nurses are the glue that holds all the pieces together for a patient’s care.”

Not only do nurses provide direct care, they also are able to spend time establishing meaningful bonds with their patients, seeing the whole person, not just the disease. Doctors rarely have the time for this, while nurses form the backbone of long-term services and support.

At least 15 nurses have served at HICFA over the years.  The 2021 team is in the featured photo and noted below.

Debbie Ogata-Arakaki has been the Center’s Nurse-Coordinator since 1989 when the HICFA began. She has shepherded the staff since the difficult early days of the epidemic and moved the program through a time of rapid antiretroviral therapy development. Her expertise in research regulatory issues helped make each clinical trial at HICFA a reality.

Lorna Nagamine has been with the Center for more than 20 years. She has had responsibility for fiscal and grant matters. She has recently taken on a leadership role in Ryan White Grant-writing and management.

Cris Milne has worked tirelessly for more than 25 years. She was the local study coordinator for the seminal Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) that focused on the needs of women living with HIV. Cris also leads many of our pharmaceutical initiatives that make new treatments available in Hawai’i.

Nancy Hanks was instrumental in recruiting and managing participants into local and national studies. She recently retired after 28 years at HICFA. Several of our locally conceived research studies on HIV-associated cognitive impairment and metabolic treatments have contributed to national treatment guidelines.

Maya Barney has been the nurse-manager of our UH-based HIV clinic (Clint Spencer Clinic) for 5 years. She has been a strong advocate for patients. She is the face of the clinic and has done a tremendous job in forming and fostering the connections between the clinic and numerous community partners. Her dedicated and friendly demeanor makes her an effective leader moving toward the clinic’s objective of a HIV/AIDS-free generation.

Mary Lichota is thd newest member at the Clint Spencer Clinic and assists Maya in the day-to-day function of the clinic.


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HICFA Nurses: Debbie Ogata-Arakaki, Mary Lichota, Maya Barney, Lorna Nagamine, Nancy Hanks, and Cris Milne were awarded the 2021 Suzanne Richmond Crum Award from the Hawai’i Department of Health–Harm Reduction Services Branch. Tom Sheeran photo.

HICFA story edited by Paula Bender, UHMed News

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