Sweet Emergency Fund
The Sweet Emergency Fund is a safety net for HIV/AIDS patients to ensure they can afford medical care and expenses living with HIV/AIDS.
The Sweet Emergency Fund was established 30 years ago, during the worst part of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and continues today thanks to donations from generous supporters.
The fund's founder and namesake, Donna Sweet, M.D., recalls working with "a lot of very sick and dying people," and being "desperately short of funds for paying for things back in the day."
The needs ranged from prescription drugs to a house for patients "with nowhere else to go." The idea of a fundraiser sprang up, and Dr. Sweet - a professor of internal medicine at KU School of Medicine-Wichita - volunteered to host in her backyard.
Since joining the KU School of Medicine-Wichita faculty in 1982, Dr. Sweet has led the treatment of HIV/AIDS in much of Kansas while advocating for anything that can help prevent its spread. In addition to a large general practice, Dr. Sweet and her team at the KU Wichita Internal Medicine Midtown Clinic - which includes two nurse practitioners, a physician assistant, another internist and a family physician - care for about 1,400 HIV/AIDS patients, or just about all who live outside the northeast corner of the state.
"We're all credentialed HIV specialists," she said of her team. "This is the only place in the state where you can say that."
To reach rural patients, Dr. Sweet and her team drive to Salina and fly to Garden City and Pittsburg on a regular basis. In the past, KU was able to help cover flight costs, but that ended amid budget cuts. Now, they must charter flights utilizing support through the state HIV program to continue those clinics.
Dr. Sweet has also conducted research and lectured around the world. In the United States, federal funds are now available for many aspects of treatment, in part because of lobbying by people such as Sweet. But her emergency fund is still needed to cover things such as eyeglasses and physical therapy to help newly diagnosed patients.
"We use it on an almost daily basis for somebody new to care who doesn't have their benefits in place," Dr. Sweet said.
Alleviating elevated costs
The Sweet Emergency Fund can help alleviate these costs for our patients:
- First appointment costs prior to enrolling in Ryan White services
- Copays for medications and treatments rendered by other specialty providers
- Meds when someone is new to clinic, newly positive or unemployed
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Emergency housing-related expenses
- Specialty medical appointments when patient doesn't have insurance
- Durable medical equipment
- Expenses not eligible to be covered through a federal grant
For more information about the Sweet Emergency Fund, including statistics and costs at a glance, view the brochure.
Connect with the Sweet Emergency Fund on Facebook to stay up-to-date on upcoming events.