Is HIV How you ID?

Author: Lauren Richey, MD, MPH, FIDSA, UMC Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist and LSU Health Sciences Center Associate Professor of Medicine

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that can cause serious damage to your body and immune system if not treated; however you can be without symptoms for many years. The lack of symptoms makes people think they are healthy, and, as a result, they often do not seek out or request testing.

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It is important to find out about the infection early because there are simple, effective treatments which can keep you healthy and prevent any damage to your immune system.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

How Do I Get HIV?

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HIV can be transmitted through:

  • sexual fluids during sexual activity,
  • mother to child during birth,
  • breast feeding, and
  • blood.

Blood transmission can occur through blood transfusions and the use of intravenous (IV) drugs.

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How is HIV/AIDS Diagnosed?

As mentioned before, early HIV infection often causes no symptoms, and must be detected by testing a person’s blood for the presence of antibodies — disease-fighting proteins — against HIV. These HIV antibodies generally do not reach levels high enough to detect by standard blood tests until 1 to 3 months following infection, and may take as long as 6 months to do so.

People exposed to HIV should be tested for HIV infection as soon as they think they may have been exposed to HIV.

When a person is highly likely to be infected with HIV and, yet, antibody tests are negative, a test for the presence of HIV itself in the blood is used. Repeated antibody testing at a later date, when antibodies to HIV are more likely to have developed, is often recommended.

Who Should Get Tested?  Everyone! 

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There are a lot of misconceptions about HIV and how it is transmitted but anyone, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or educational level, who has had sex should be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. About 1 in 7 people in the United States who have HIV don’t know they have it.

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People at higher risk should get tested more often. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

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If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to protect you and your child from getting HIV.

What are My Options for HIV/AIDS Treatment?

As with many other conditions, early detection offers more choices for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that not only can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system, but  may keep HIV in check so that the individual has a chance to live a normal life span.

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Unfortunately, there is no cure for an HIV infection.

Talk with your healthcare provider for more information regarding various drug therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Where Can I Get Tested?

We offer testing at University Medical Center New Orleans in the Infectious Disease Center (ACB building, Clinic 4C). There is also routine HIV testing in our Emergency Department. So if a medical condition or any risk of exposure to HIV brings you to the ED, you can get tested!

To find other testing centers near you, you can enter your zip code into: gettested.cdc.gov.  Other places include your primary medical doctor, OB/GYN doctor, or at a community testing event.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Acquiring HIV?

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  1. Use Condoms: Using condoms during sexual encounters is one of the simplest ways to prevent HIV transmission.
  2. Take PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): PreP involves taking a daily medicine to prevent HIV acquisition and is very effective.
  3. Use Clean Needles: If you inject drugs, using clean needles, and never sharing needles, is another way to prevent HIV transmission.
  4. Talk to Your Partner: Before having sex for the first time with a new partner, you and your partner should talk about your sexual and drug-use history, disclose your HIV status, and consider getting tested for HIV and learning the results.

Where Can I get PreP? Where Can I Receive Treatment for HIV?

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The HOP (HIV Outpatient Program) clinic nested in the Infectious Disease Center of the ACB building Clinic 4C provides both comprehensive HIV care and PreP.

Call (504) 702-4344 to make an appointment or to refer a patient. 

Click here for more HIV Resources.

About the Author

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Dr. Lauren Richey, MD,MPH, FIDSA is an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has more than 11 years of diverse experience with HIV and other infectious diseases.

 

 

6 Health Screenings to Help Women Prevent Disease

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May is women’s health month, a perfect time to remind the caregivers of the family to take care of themselves.

Don’t let heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions sneak up on you. Instead, prevent them by seeing your doctor for a yearly well-woman checkup

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At your checkup, your doctor will likely suggest health screenings. These tests can help spot potentially deadly conditions before they become life-threatening.

 

Here are 6 health screenings every woman needs in order to help prevent disease and stay healthy.

How many have you checked off your list?

1. Blood pressure

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Nearly half of all Americans older than age 20 have chronic high blood pressure—130/80 mmHg or greater. Getting your blood pressure checked, and changing your lifestyle or using medication, if necessary, can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease.

2. Cholesterol

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This simple blood test—after an overnight fast—measures levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides. These fats in your blood can affect your risk for heart disease and stroke.

3. Pap test

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This test, as part of a pelvic exam, takes a sample of cells from the cervix to check for cervical cancer. Women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years. From ages 30 to 65, you should get screened every three to five years. Cervical cancer and the beginning stages of the disease are treatable if caught early.

4. Mammogram

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This breast X-ray can find breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages. Talk with your doctor if you’re between ages 40 and 49 about when to start getting a mammogram. If you’re between ages 50 and 74, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a screening every two years.

5. Blood glucose

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This simple blood test helps detect type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which can increase the risk for heart disease and other complications. It’s recommended for adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight.

6. Colonoscopy

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During this test, the doctor will examine your colon, looking for signs of cancer and small growths that can become cancerous over time, which can be removed during the test. Experts recommend getting a colonoscopy starting at age 50.

Consider bringing a copy of your family health history to your checkup.

Create one here.

 

Beware and Be Aware of Carnival Cravings!

Author: Amanda Mitzel, RN, University Medical Center New Orleans

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Carnival season (and let’s be honest, living in New Orleans) can often make mindful eating a hard practice with which to stick. Between king cake, jambalaya and Popeye’s chicken, it seems everyone has food on the brain, but especially between King’s Day and Fat Tuesday.

Although the spirit of Mardi Gras has the power to get people thinking about eating, it does not always promote thinking about what they’re eating.

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If you’ve never heard of the term until now, mindful eating is the art of being aware of what you consume. It’s important because eating mindfully brings a steady awareness of our decision-making when it comes to food, encouraging healthy options and habits (while also making sure we aren’t unkind to ourselves if we have the occasional treat).

Mindful eating is not about restricting food. It’s not a diet.

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It’s about immersing ourselves in the experience, and it’s easy — not to mention, beneficial. Here’s how:

  • It increases your awareness of being full: Being mindful helps us notice when we’ve had enough, so we’re less likely to eat beyond the point of feeling satisfied.
  • It helps with identifying triggers: Our tendencies to eat for reasons other than nourishment are brought to light, such as stress eating or eating to comfort an emotion (sadness, anger, grief).
  • It aids in identifying habits: We can better see our habits, such as eating out of boredom or always having a certain snack during a particular activity. This awareness can help us challenge our need to always do something a certain way, especially if it’s unhealthy.
  • It promotes understanding the need for better coping mechanisms: As we uncover our triggers, we start to clearly see the need to deal with these emotions in a different way. Mindfulness helps give ourselves the space we need to process our feelings in a healthier way, such as breathing exercises, going for a walk, or talking with a friend.
  • It inspires you to make smarter food choices: This inspiration comes from a better awareness of how what you choose to fuel yourself affects how you feel. We start to notice the difference in how we feel when we eat a healthy meal versus post-junk food lethargy and anxiety.

So, now you may ask: How can I begin to integrate mindful eating into my everyday life?

Listed below are some tips to consider the next time you eat, whether it’s a healthy snack or that single slice of king cake you’re determined to savor mindfully:

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Cut out Distractions

Turn off your TV, your cell phone – anything that will distract you from the food in front of you. Focus fully on the meal if you are alone. If you are with loved ones, minimize distractions to the extent that you can. Immerse yourself in the conversation rather than checking your email or going over the day’s events in your mind.

Savor the Flavors

Enjoy your food! Use all five senses to heighten the experience.

Notice Reactions

Be aware of any emotions that come up. Do certain foods make you feel upset with yourself? Or do certain emotions cause you to reach for food as a nervous habit? Noticing these tendencies will help you highlight the need to work on managing your stress in other ways, decreasing that knee-jerk reaction to grab for food.

Don’t Judge

Try your best to keep that feeling of equanimity, no matter what emotions come up. Let those feelings come and go like clouds passing in the sky.

Pause

Make sure to slow down and give yourself enough time to notice when you’re feeling full. We often eat past the point of satiety simply because we’re distracted.

Be Kind to Yourself

Remember that this is not restricting yourself. It’s about paying attention and allowing this process to build the presence of mind to make choices that help us feel good about ourselves.

Making healthy choices becomes easier when we quiet down all the distractions around us and within our minds, and starting a mindful eating practice is as simple as giving your full attention to the plate in front of you.

Join me in trying to stay mindful this Carnival season, which will heighten the experience…and it might just keep us from eating the whole cake, too!

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Problematic Pancreatic: What to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Author: Jennifer Gnerlich, MD, UMC Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans

More people are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer now than ever before. Currently, cancer of the pancreas accounts for 7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. This year, an estimated 53,670 adults will be diagnosed with this disease, and more than 43,000 of them will die. (Source: American Cancer Society)

November kicks off Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month at UMCNO’s Cancer Center, so our staff is working to get the word out about this disease.

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Here is what you should know:

  • Most people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between the ages of 55 years old and 85 years old.
  • Men and women are equally affected by pancreatic cancer.
  • The number one risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking and tobacco use.
    • Please call the American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA (586-4872) if you need help in quitting tobacco use and smoking, or phone us at UMC at (504) 702-5178. 
  • Individuals with BRCA mutations (associated with breast cancer) have an increased risk of pancreas cancer.

There is NO screening test for this disease. You need to be aware of the possible presenting symptoms of pancreatic cancer, which include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • New onset of pain in the upper abdomen/belly or back pain
  • Indigestion or upset stomach not relieved with Tums or Pepcid
  • Pale, smelly, floating, or light colored stools that may look oily in the toilet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • New diagnosis of diabetes, especially in people over 50 years old
  • New diagnosis of clots in veins or arteries
  • Pancreatitis

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If you have any of these symptoms, please see your primary care physician or contact the Cancer Center Monday through Friday at (504)702-3697 for an appointment.

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Getting checked is important. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 8%, but with appropriate care that survival can be as high as 27%. Treatment will usually include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Just as every person is unique, so is his/her pancreatic cancer. This is why every patient is discussed at a multi-disciplinary tumor board where a panel of experts in fields such as medicine, radiation, surgery, radiology, and pathology can discuss the case and determine the best treatment for that individual.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or want additional information, please contact the UMCNO Cancer Center as soon as possible.

About Dr. Gnerlich

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Dr. Gnerlich is a board-certified surgical oncologist specializing in upper gastrointestinal cancers in the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, stomach, esophagus and retroperitoneal sarcomas. A fun fact – While Dr. Gnerlich was completing her undergraduate degree, she was scouted to go into professional acting. She loves to run half-marathons, especially at Disney World. Dr. Gnerlich is excited to join the staff at UMC because of the “great team we have here.” She hopes to bring new procedures like HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) to UMC for patients with certain types of cancer that have spread throughout the abdomen.

To make an appointment with Dr. Gnerlich or one of our cancer specialists, please contact (504)702-3697 or (504) 702-5700.