As Infections Rise, Keep Fluent in Testing, Care for HIV Patients

URMC Experts Offer Free Continuing Medical Education

Amneris Luque, M.D.

Amneris Luque, M.D.

Preliminary data from a Monroe County Health Department report released late last year indicates that nearly 45 percent of newly identified area HIV cases occurred in people under age 25. By comparison, this same young adult segment accounted for just 14 percent of new infections in 2007.

“Though the number of new infections is increasing in young people – especially in young men that have sex with men – the good news is that treatment has come a long way since the first therapies arrived on scene 20 years ago,” said Amneris Luque, M.D., director of URMC’s AIDS Center.

“With today’s regimens and good specialist care, AIDS is no longer a fatal disease. Instead, we face a completely new challenge: caring for unique health needs of the first generation of aging AIDS patients,” she said.

As the risk for infection climbs in the youngest circles – and as these patients live longer – simple math suggests that that HIV specialists and frontline providers will need to work together to meet the demand for care.

Identifying Patients

CEI logoPrimary care physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, pharmacists and other community health care providers can play a critical role in identifying patients.

“This identification process isn’t always obvious,” Luque said. “Patients with infection can be asymptomatic for years. And when early symptoms do surface, they might raise little concern, perhaps mimicking the flu.”

The best way to detect infected persons – an approach now mandated by legislation passed in September 2010 – is to offer HIV testing as part of routine medical care, perhaps at an annual physical or gynecological exam.

“Identifying undiagnosed, HIV-infected patients is the critical first step in connecting them with medical specialists,” said Thomas Della Porta, senior health project coordinator in URMC’s Infectious Diseases Division. “Although HIV-infection remains a serious concern, current treatment is quite effective. Still, patients have to be diagnosed in order to be treated.”

Keeping Providers Current

As the collective understanding of HIV pathology grows, yielding more sophisticated and successful treatments, so must the knowledge of area health care providers. Eager to facilitate this ongoing medical education, URMC launched its internet version of the HIV Clinical Education Initiative (CEI) – the Online HIV Clinical Education and Technology Center – three years ago. This information clearinghouse helps busy health care providers stay abreast of the evolving understanding of HIV/AIDS care and treatment, right from their computers.

The Technology Center is a free and robust avenue for earning online CME credit, with new courses being added all the time. Clinically relevant topics range from understanding vitamin D deficiencies in HIV-infected patients, to taking a closer look at the trend towards young men increasingly having unprotected sex with other men and exploring infection prevention strategies that work best for this group. Online courses typically last an hour and consist of a PowerPoint slideshow narrated by an expert educator. A brief quiz follows each presentation; once finished, participants can print a certificate of completion.

In addition to for-credit courses, not-for-credit webcasts and podcasts discuss new clinical findings, state legislation, and practice guidelines. Perhaps one of the best education offerings is free, in-person training from medical experts from URMC’s AIDS Center, which provides ongoing specialty care for more than 1,000 local HIV patients. These AIDS Center experts will gladly travel to individual practices and provide educational talks tailored to providers’ unique needs and interests.

“We’re adamant about sharing knowledge and partnering with community providers,” Luque said. “As our insight into HIV and AIDS grows, our online and in-person education efforts are a key part in turning that knowledge into power that ultimately helps patients.”

URMC’s Online HIV Clinical Education and Technology Center is financed by a contract from the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute. To learn more, about URMC’s Clinical Education/Technology Center, annual HIV/AIDS conference, or about the opportunity to become an HIV specialist by immersing yourself in a 1- to 5-day “mini residency” at URMC’s AIDS Center, contact Della Porta (thomas_dellaporta@urmc.rochester.edu) at (585 275-7655.

For More Information

Toll-Free Provider Support

CEI Line: 866-637-2342
Discuss treatment, issues and guidelines with a regional HIV specialist.

PEP Line: 888-448-4911
Receive consultation from an HIV specialist regarding how you should best manage post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to help you/your patients avoid becoming HIV-positive.

Resource and Referral: 800-233-5075
Learn about statewide HIV education and training opportunities.

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