In Part 2 of my conversation with Cody Turpin, CEO of Equality Health Group, we discussed the transition from being diagnosed with HIV to wanting to help other patients by starting his own clinic and the feeling of getting his first patient walk through the doors.

How did what you experienced as a patient plant the seed for you on eventually starting Equality Health Group, tell us about the founding story.

We opened around the first of December in 2020. Our very first patient was a Hep C patient who was transgender, it was just ravaging her body And that's how we started. That's how we got going. And it worked!

So the way it worked was was during the pandemic the state took their contact tracers that would usually go out and search for other folks if you get an HIV positive, they go look for other folks that you may have had sex with.

They took them and they said, all right, we're going to move them all to COVID. So sexual health got put on the back burner. So we started at the perfect time, it was just luck. And so I contacted the state and I said, this is the program that we're starting. Send everybody, you guys are focused on COVID, send your sexual health to me.

Send all your overflow to me. The ones that nobody wants. The ones who are uninsured. The ones who don't speak English. The ones who are undocumented. Send them all to me. I want the hardest patients possible, so I can learn. So we can learn together. We may not be able to get them the medicine that day, but we can, we can darn sure try.

And there's nothing, there's nothing better than a small group of people with a mission that can get things done and we got it done.  You could go into our waiting room today and it could be somebody who's experiencing homelessness and poverty and just everything stacked against them or it could be a high flying lawyer. I mean, it's anybody and everybody. It's from 14 years old all the way up to I think our oldest patient was 82, so far. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, it doesn't matter. They all come and 73 percent of everybody that walks in my door is positive for something. That is huge because if you go to a big hospital and go into a big ID clinic, you don't get that personal service, that personal care, because these diseases are complex, that's why we've decided to just focus on HIV, Hep C, STDs, PEP and PrEP, because we want to be the best at what we do.

 You talked about all the different barriers that these patients experience. What is the experience like when they walk in the door at Equality Health Group

Let's take an HIV patient, for example, who's undocumented. There's no cost. Period. You call, make your appointment or make it online, however you want come in, we provide you with somebody who, speaks Spanish. Fill out the patient paperwork. We have somebody there to help you all the way along. Come in, see the provider. We work with the manufacturers to get you the drug that you need to get you taken care of. That's the step that nobody wants to do. Because it's so difficult. That's the part that we do so well behind the scenes that we make look easy. It's not easy, it's ridiculous!

So, after the patient gets taken care of, we have to then take all their information and fill out on a paper application all the information and then our provider has to sign it. We then have to fax it to the drug manufacturer. Then we have to get on the phone and wait on hold for 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes longer, because if you don't make that call, it could be up to 20 days before it's processed. Every single time, every single time.

 And if you weren't doing this work for these patients or on behalf of these patients, what would happen to them?

They would walk into a hospital or an emergency room, time after time after time. They would be the uninsured patient that nobody wants continuing to drain this the system.

The patient that I was talking about earlier, that very first one that we had, she shows up here every once in a while. She was darn near homeless. And we got her the drug that she needed, because she felt so bad every day. Now, she's got an awesome job. Now she has health insurance. Now she feels good enough to go out and, and have a life.

I don't know, something inside of me always, it's going to work out. We'll figure it out one way or another. And that's what I did. I kind of jumped off a cliff, and I'm glad I did, because it's worked out so well.

Sid Viswanathan

Founder & Co-CEO