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Help for HIV/AIDS

November 03, 2021 Posted in: Primary Care

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS. There is no effective cure; however, it can be controlled with proper medical care. CHI Memorial Infectious Disease Associates specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of difficult, unusual, and complicated illnesses and is designated as a Center of Excellence for HIV/AIDS. 

Managing an inflammatory disease like HIV means consistently monitoring the medications patients take to manage their chronic disease. Paying close attention to each patient ensures their treatments won’t have an interaction with other medications or lead them on a path to vascular and arterial disease in the future. This requires a focus on prevention at every visit.

Antiretroviral Therapy (ARV) 

Advances in Antiretroviral therapy (ARV) have made treatment for HIV/AIDS as simple as a single daily dose. While significantly easier than previous medication options, this unique therapy can result in some very specific side effects. ARV can cause peripheral neuropathy, high blood sugar, impact on cholesterol, soft bones that lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis, and kidney and liver issues. 

An example of the complicated nature of HIV treatment is that some well-known inhalers for asthma and COPD can’t be used with ARV medications. Men on long-term ARV therapy are more susceptible to bone loss as a direct side effect of the ARV medications. This necessitates earlier screening for osteoporosis in men, which is atypical for the average patient. Young individuals on ARV therapy have to contend with the challenging, long-term side effects. 

Part of the team’s due diligence is to assess when to appropriately add medications, determine their future effects, and gauge whether they are preventing or promoting something with each additional medication.

Preventative Care

The center has instituted three-compartmental testing (for diagnosis of gonorrhea and chlamydia) and anal pap smears. These tests include urinalysis and sterile swabs of the throat and rectum. They proactively look for HPV infection and abnormal tissue, which means earlier identification and treatment and a decreased risk of cervical and rectal cancer. When abnormal cells are found, patients are immediately referred to a specialist who uses a scope to remove any affected tissues and prevent more serious health complications later in life. 

The usual screening for sexually transmitted diseases is urinalysis; however, studies show that these tests are not as effective during early stages. CHI Infectious Disease Associates use a combination of testing to ensure individuals get the preventive care they need to live longer, healthier lives. More thorough testing also provides a community reduction of STI transmission. 

Beyond the Basics

The CHI Memorial team manages the complex healthcare needs of individuals living with HIV/AIDS through open communication, careful medication management, and aggressive testing protocols. The patient population is very diverse in sexual orientation and ranges in age from 20 to 80. There is a wide array of needs, including current or former drug use, mental health problems, and lack of family or social support. 

More than just their physical condition, healthcare professionals address the needs regarding social disparities. This includes access to food, transportation for medical care, and housing and medication assistance. If substance abuse is identified, they also have a case management team to assist with referrals to a treatment facility.

CHI Memorial Infectious Disease Associates works with primary care physicians, depending on patient preference, and provides Ryan White Part B services. These services include assistance with insurance premiums, copayments and deductibles and accessing health related services like dental care, vision services, and nutritional and mental health counseling. 

For information or to schedule an appointment at CHI Memorial Infectious Disease Associates, please call (423) 495-2650.

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