💉 An HIV-focused pharmacy has opened at the Walmart Super Center in North Bergen

💉 It is the retail chain's first specialty pharmacy of this kind in the Northeast

💉 The pharmacy focuses on specialized services so patients have access to and are taking their meds

NORTH BERGEN — The township’s Walmart Supercenter has partnered with New Jersey’s largest HIV Foundation, Hyacinth, to open its only HIV-focused pharmacy in the Northeast.

HIV specialty pharmacies are integral to the care for people living with HIV, said Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, executive director of Hyacinth.

Some of the medications are required to go through a specialty pharmacy. She said most of the large pharmacy chains have a specialty pharmacy but not every pharmacy is a specialty pharmacy.

The specialty pharmacy is not only available for patients living with HIV. It’s a regular everyday pharmacy, Ahearn-O’Brien said. Anybody can go there for anything they need.

“But they will offer specialized services. They will do a little bit more case management types of services with the client to make sure they’re taking the medication. There’s a little bit more follow-up than with a standard pharmacy,” she said.

Walmart Pharmacy Drive-Thru in North Bergen (Photo Credit: Google Street View)
Walmart Pharmacy Drive-Thru in North Bergen (Photo Credit: Google Street View)

One of the things about HIV is that if the viral load can be kept undetectable, then that person won’t transmit the virus to someone else. The only way to keep the virus undetectable is through treatment, Ahearn-O’Brien said.

If a pharmacy or an organization like Hyacinth is working with a client to make sure they’re taking their meds every day, that’s part of the plan to help those with HIV in the state.

“Making sure that people know their status, and that they have access to treatment, and that they take the treatment and follow the treatment regiment, so the specialty pharmacy plays a key role in that,” Ahearn-O’Brien said.

It makes sense for an HIV-specialty pharmacy to open first in North Bergen, she said. HIV is found in urban centers in New Jersey. Essex and Hudson counties tend to have higher levels of HIV than some of the other counties in the state, she said.

Anyone living with HIV has access to medication with or without insurance. Ahearn-O’Brien says the AIDS Drug Assistance Program ensures patients have access to drugs so insurance is never an issue.

At Hyacinth which has 8 offices in New Jersey including New Brunswick, Ahearn-O’Brien said they simply help people living with HIV.

“We want to stop the spread of the epidemic and we serve as a critical voice so our role is to provide testing so people are aware of their status and know their status. We provide supportive services. We’ll help someone who has housing insecurity and food insecurity. We have a large mental health program. We have a behavioral health program,” she said.

These supportive services offered make sure somebody stays actively engaged with their doctor and their pharmacy.

Walmart is scheduled to open a second HIV-focused pharmacy in North Brunswick in the near future.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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