Variety Care employs numerous one-of-a-kind staff, including the only HIV/AIDS certified nurse in the state of Oklahoma. Courtney Sharpe, HIV/AIDS Certified Licensed Practical Nurse (ACLPN), has worked as an LPN for 11 years, but during her time with Variety Care, her passion has driven her to seek additional certification to better serve the patients.
“When I came to this department, I tried to grab every resource that was available,” Sharpe says. That determination led her to seek her ACLPN certification. She explains that her certification not only allows her to better serve her patients, but also opens a line of communication between herself and other healthcare professionals around the world.
“It has been really interesting to see what is still happening in other countries, whether it’s behind or an advancement,” Sharpe explains.
About 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US but nearly 1 in 5 people don’t know they are infected. Each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. By getting tested and knowing their HIV status, individuals can take the necessary steps to protect their health and the health of their partners.
There are many ways to get tested for HIV, and where to go for testing will depend on your location and preferences. In-person testing is available by appointment at all Variety Care clinics, including Variety Care Sequoyah, which offers online scheduling.
Courtney Sharpe, ACLPN, recognizes that while it is interesting being the only AIDS certified nurse in the state, it’s also discouraging. “HIV wasn’t just discovered yesterday – there’s just still so much stigma,” Sharpe emphasizes “I get frustrated because everyone knows someone who has diabetes or hypertension, and you know somebody who has been affected or has HIV - it’s just not talked about.”
Sharpe attributes that stigma to the continuing trend of growing numbers. HIV stigma continues to be a significant barrier to HIV testing, treatment, and care. Stigma can make individuals who are at risk of HIV hesitant to seek testing and can affect the health outcomes of those living with the virus. Addressing stigma is a crucial component of any effective HIV response and requires the involvement of individuals, families, communities, and policymakers.
Just two months after Sharpe was hired as a communicable disease nurse at the Sequoyah location, Variety Care hired its Director of HIV and Viral Hepatitis Services, Phil Burke, PA-C. Burke tells us he is lucky to work alongside Sharpe in the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Department, emphasizing her dedication to serving the populations of patients they specialize in.
“This passion is shown in her commitment to educating patients, friends, and co-workers about our services as well as in how the patients react to her,” he says. “On most days, I am pretty sure the patients would rather talk to her than me because of the relationship that Courtney has forged with all of them over the years.”
If you or a loved one needs testing, Variety Care makes it as accessible as possible. We offer no-cost rapid testing every Thursday from 4-7 pm at our Straka Terrace Urgent Care location and every Monday from 4-6 pm at our Putnam Urgent Care location.