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AIDS Expert Honored by Department of Health

Thursday, October 24, 2002

The doctor who directs the AIDS clinic at Strong Memorial Hospital was recently honored for her compassionate and high-quality care of her patients and for the crucial role she serves training physicians around the state about the illness.

Amneris Luque, M.D., director of the AIDS Center at Strong, received the 2002 Linda Laubenstein HIV Clinical Excellence Award, which recognizes physicians who excel in the care of patients with HIV. The award was given by the New York State Department of Health.

According to the health department, the award honors “physicians who, besides providing the highest quality of clinical care for people with HIV/AIDS, are also distinguished by their compassionate manner and their wholehearted involvement in the ongoing effort to achieve comprehensive care for persons with HIV/AIDS.”

As a young doctor in training in New York City 20 years ago, Luque was one of the first physicians in the nation to confront AIDS.

“At that time, HIV was nowhere on the landscape of infectious diseases, but we were intrigued. We didn’t understand the disease, but we viewed it as a challenge,” Luque says. “Care used to be limited to helping patients die with dignity, and putting in place prevention measures so others would not become infected. But the disease and our knowledge have evolved.

“It’s been wonderful to see how AIDS has gone from a disease that meant certain death to a chronic disease that is manageable. Our patients are living longer, healthier lives,” says Luque, whose center provides ongoing care for approximately 900 patients with HIV.

Among the current challenges, Luque says, are juggling the side effects of multiple medications that aim to keep the virus in check, and helping patients learn the importance of taking their medications as scheduled. Doctors also continually battle the problem of resistance of the HIV virus to medications.

Luque, an assistant professor of medicine, has been director of the AIDS Center at Strong since 1994. She is currently vice chair of the medical care criteria committee of the health department’s AIDS Institute, and she also heads a committee on the care of women infected with HIV. She has studied the consequences of HIV treatment on other medical conditions women may have or develop, such as cervical cancer.

In addition to the AIDS clinic, the University of Rochester Medical Center boasts one of the nation’s largest efforts in new research to prevent and treat the disease. In 1986 the medical center was named one of the original 11 sites of a nationwide network of centers devoted to developing and testing new ways to treat the disease. The University was also one of the original six sites to test potential vaccines, and is now part of a much larger global testing network. The Rochester community has the highest rate of participation of any city in the nation of volunteers willing to take part in research aimed at testing vaccines.

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