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Yaralla House has provided high-level care for people with HIV-associated neurological conditions since 1998.

Celebrating 20 years of care for HIV patients at Yaralla House

March 2018

Yaralla House has provided high-level care for people with HIV-associated neurological conditions since 1998.

Yaralla House has provided high-level care for people with HIV-associated neurological conditions since 1998.

The 20th anniversary of the establishment of a high dependency residential care facility for people with HIV-associated neurological conditions was celebrated at a joyful event at Yaralla House on March 24, 2018.

This unique service was set up as a NSW Health statewide service in 1998, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, in response to the needs of people suffering from HIV-associated dementia (HAD), progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) and related cognitive impairments. It complemented the community-based AIDS Dementia and HIV Psychiatry Service  (ADAHPS), which commenced in 1997 .

The service, initially catering for six residents, was originally located at The Bridge in Glebe, at the site of the former Ronald McDonald House. The name not only reflected the name of the facility, on Bridge Road, but symbolised the bridge to better health for a diverse population of HIV positive residents from across urban and regional NSW.

In 2012, the service moved to the beautiful Dame Eadith Walker House, also known as Yaralla House, in the grounds of the Yaralla Estate in Concord.

The house currently has 12 permanent residents who are assisted 24/7 with daily living, medication management and behaviour. The nursing staff are closely supported by a comprehensive team of primary care physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and allied health clinicians.
About 100 guests attended the celebrations, including the 12 residents, their families and friends, representatives from HIV organisations such as ACON, Positive Life and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, volunteers, including from the Tree of Life, and current and former clinical staff, some of whom had travelled from interstate to attend.

There is no single or definitive cause of HIV-associated dementia and no cure. Because of the widespread use of effective HIV treatment, new-onset HIV-associated dementia is thankfully now uncommon, affecting about 2 per cent of the HIV-infected population.

The intensive level of nursing and supportive care provided at Yaralla House has proven to be so effective that some people can be stabilised on a medical regime and transferred to a lower-care facility or the community - with the support of ADAHPS - where they are able to live more independently. A former resident, Andrew, gave a personal insight into his journey and how Yaralla House assisted in his recovery.

For those who need high-level care, Yaralla House provides for the residents’ social, cultural and community engagement needs, with music, singing, art and events, and also offers tranquil expansive grounds.

The Medical Director of Yaralla House, physician and immunologist Dr Roger Garsia, said throughout its 20 years, the service has allowed people devastated by the often insidiousness of HIV-associated dementia to be optimally cared for by dedicated staff in a very supportive environment.

As people with HIV-associated dementia get older, and improved treatments result in longer life expectancy, Yaralla House, administered by Concord Hospital, will continue to play a vital role in providing the best possible quality of life to this very special group of residents.

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