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.

 

 

What Do I Do? I Think I Have the Flu!

Author: Peter DeBlieux, MD, UMC Chief Medical Officer and Pulmonary Critical Care Physician

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This year’s flu season as been an active and aggressive one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease has reached its peak, but many more people are expected to be infected with the flu before all is said and done.

So, what do you do if you have the flu?

Prevention

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Get your vaccine – it’s the best defense against the flu.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot. The flu vaccine reduces your likelihood of getting the flu. However, if you do get the flu, the vaccine is still beneficial, as it reduces the likelihood of hospitalization and death as a result of the disease.

Flu virus are spread by contact with droplets that go airborne when an infected person sneezes or coughs. You can get the flu by inhaling the droplets or touching objects where the droplets have landed, which means…

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Handwashing – You should wash your hands often with soap and water.

Scrub for at least 20 seconds, then dry.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

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Is it a cold or flu?

Early on, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between a cold and influenza. According to the CDC, colds are usually milder, and people with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. The flu can result in a series of health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalizations and, in some cases, death.

Here’s how you can tell:

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Symptoms

These can vary from person to person. Although the flu is a respiratory disease, it can affect your entire body, including the gastrointestinal system.

Common symptoms include:

  • Cough, often severe
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Fatigue for several weeks
  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Sneezing at times
  • Sometimes a sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

According to the CDC, you’re contagious a day before the symptoms start and 5 days after.

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Call your doctor to see if an antiviral medication is appropriate for you, but keep in mind that medication such as Tamiflu is not helpful after two days of symptoms.

If you have the flu, don’t interact with people who are sick. Especially if you have cold symptoms or have fever greater than 100.3. Stay away from others until you have not had symptoms for 24 hours.

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Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if you have cold symptoms or have fever greater than 100.3.

Stay away from others until you have not had symptoms for 24 hours.

If you’re sick:

  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue – not your hands.
    • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Get smart this flu season, not sick!

 

Why You Won’t Want to “Feel the Burn” This New Year’s

Author: Angelle Bonura, BSN, RN, Nursing Director of UMC Burn Center

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Sparks fly every New Year’s Eve, and I don’t just mean romance during the annual midnight kiss. Fireworks are the staple tradition for ringing in the New Year, and for 2018, it will be no different.

While fireworks are fun to enjoy, they also pose hazards to those using or near them. On average, 250 people report to the emergency department every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month of July around Independence Day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For New Year’s, that number historically spikes again.

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In total, more than 50 percent of injuries involving fireworks happen to people under the age of 20.

At the UMC Burn Center, it is our job not only to treat and care for those who have suffered burn injuries, but to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Here are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to popping fireworks this year, compliments of the American Burn Association:

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DO

  • Consider safe alternatives, such as glow sticks and confetti poppers
  • Follow your local and state laws regarding fireworks
  • Have a designated SOBER adult light all fireworks
  • Light one firework at a time and move away quickly
  • Keep children and other observers at a safe distance
  • Keep a bucket of water close for disposal of fireworks

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DON’T

  • Allow children to handle fireworks
  • Attempt to alter, modify or relight fireworks
  • Point or throw lit fireworks at anyone
  • Ever hold lit fireworks in your hand
  • Consume alcohol or drugs when lighting fireworks

THE FACTS

  • Sparklers can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Thousands of fireworks injuries were treated in the U.S. emergency rooms, often leaving permanent damage.

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IF A BURN INJURY DOES HAPPEN…

  • Cool the burn with COOL water.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry from the burned area.
  • Cover the area with a dry clean sheet or loose bandages.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.

The UMC Burn Center will open in early 2018. It will be the only combined Burn-Trauma Center from Houston to Mobile, and will comprehensively treat thermal, inhalation and chemical burns.

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To learn more about the new Burn Center, visit: www.umcno.org/burncenter or click here.

To learn more about our Level 1 Trauma Center, visit: www.umcno.org/trauma. 

Have Your Cake…and Your Hair, Too!

UMC Offers FDA-Cleared DigniCap Scalp Cooling System to Minimize Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

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For patients recently diagnosed with cancer, it often feels like there is much to lose: time, energy, money, perhaps hope. Hair doesn’t have to be among the mix. Because of the DigniCap scalp cooling treatment, cancer patients across the United States are undergoing chemotherapy and seeing less hair loss. Now patients at University Medical Center New Orleans can do the same.

If you’re a patient looking to have your cake, and your hair, too, here’s what you need to know:

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How It Works

The DigniCap scalp cooling treatment is a proven approach to reduce chemotherapy-induced hair loss that has been used successfully by tens of thousands of patients worldwide. The reduced temperature results in a reduced blood flow to the scalp area so that less chemotherapy reaches the hair cells. Hair cells are therefore not exposed to the full dose of chemotherapy and may be able to survive the chemotherapy treatment. In addition, cellular metabolism within the hair cells is slowed down.

As a result, hair is less likely to fall out.

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How It Feels

We sat down with one of our patients, and the term she used was “pain-free.” The DigniCap is designed to comfortably fit patients’ heads and comes in varying sizes. Although it can get a little cold at times, most patients tolerate scalp cooling with DigniCap® scalp cooling system very well because the system cools the cap down gradually from room temperature. The cap temperature never drops below freezing to help make the treatment more comfortable for patients.

Common Side Effects

Side effects, as a result of the DigniCap, are minimal. They include feelings of coldness, headaches, scalp pain and/or light-headedness, which is rare. Your doctor can provide a pain reliever if you develop a headache.

What It Costs

Scalp cooling costs roughly $350-400 per treatment. The number of treatments required is determined by a patient’s physician.

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How You Can Receive Treatment

For more information, or to express your interest in being treated with the DigniCap scalp cooling system, contact the UMCNO Cancer Center at (504)702-3113 or visit www.umcno.org/dignicap.

Mammo Is Ammo: How Early Screening Saved My Life

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Author: Tamira Armwood, Breast Cancer Survivor, University Medical Center New Orleans

I clung to the words like I do to my rosary when I pray: tightly. What was supposed to be a routine mammogram screening at age 40 turned into a quick discovery of a mass on my right breast. Immediate emotions of fear and worry consumed me. But then a moment of relief came: After the biopsy, we determined the mass was benign.

That was July 2014, but the start of my journey against cancer did not begin until six months later.

Fast-forward to January at my follow-up appointment. My radiologist performed another biopsy, but this time, the results were not so favorable. “Stage 2 Breast Cancer,” she said, which means the cancer inside of me was growing, but still contained in the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

Because of the cancer’s aggression, a treatment plan was immediately created.

I can’t remember any thoughts that weren’t concerned with my own disbelief.

I couldn’t have cancer. I have no family history of it! Did she really just say those words? How am I going to tell my daughters? What if I don’t make it?

I prayed for strength, courage, wisdom, hope and support, and the amount of each of these needs I received from my husband and daughters was nearly two-fold. Like me, they had no certainty of what was going to happen. Unlike me, fear was not their focus but, rather, the fight.

When my treatment plan was established, my breast surgeon informed me I would need a lumpectomy performed to remove the lump from my breast. In addition, I would have to experience 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment plus 33 days of radiation. The information, tests and costs were overwhelming, but then I meditated on Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a good future.”

What this told me was that I was not near my end.

In my diagnosis, there was hope. After my treatment, there would be a good future.

If there is anything this disease has taught me, it is how to embrace the little things in life.

On this journey, I experienced a great degree of setback: hair loss, excessive weight gain, nail discoloration, lymphedema and periods of extreme fatigue. What I gained, however, was far greater. After my diagnosis, I smiled more. I shared more information with family and, even, strangers. I got excited more. I displayed courage more.

In the most unexpected way, I have become more grateful for the little blessings this experience has given me. It has brought my family closer together, mended broken relationships and been a common cause for which we can all show passion and compassion.

If you are someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, my advice to you is this:

Know there is hope. Stay the course. Stand in Faith. And never quit.

I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, but genetic breast cancers only account for about 15%-20% of all breast cancers. That’s why it’s so important to get screened.

Because of this mantra, I preserved through the fight.

Because of my annual mammogram, I became a breast cancer survivor.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story with you.

Tamira Armwood

 

For more information about mammograms at UMC, visit http://www.umcno.org/mammograms.