South Suburban HIV/AIDS Regional Coalition (SSHARC)


Serving residents of the 38 towns and villages that make up south suburban Cook County, the 3 clinics that form the South Suburban HIV/AIDS Regional Coalition (SSHARC)—the Robbins Clinic in Robbins, the Woody Winston clinic in Phoenix, and the Cottage Grove clinic in Ford Heights—provide essential HIV care services in a region where HIV infection and mortality rates have skyrocketed in recent years. While they began as family medicine clinics over 20 years ago, in 2001 the clinics expanded to include a comprehensive HIV primary care program that encompasses a full range of medical services (provided for free to qualifying patients), case management, substance abuse and mental health services, and various peer support groups. An added benefit at SSHARC is that services are discrete. Because the clinics are also family medicine clinics, HIV positive patients do not “out” themselves simply by entering them. In a predominantly African American cultural setting wherein HIV positive persons are highly stigmatized, such discretion is especially important, as many people might avoid treatment were it not available. The high quality care offered, the discrete setting in which it is offered, and the high level of cultural competency among the staff, most of whom reside in the communities in which they serve, are all factors in the rapid growth of the clinic’s patient population. When the clinics began offering HIV services in early 2002, they served 20 patients; in late 2003 they served 90; they currently serve 250 patients, with a satellite office offering mental health counseling and DRS case management.