Augusta, Ga. When Dr. Cheryl Newman meets an HIV-positive patient, one of her first questions is whether he knows anyone else with the infection.
The usual response is about dead relatives or friends. "We talk about what that experience was and how, in all likelihood, his experience will be very different," said the infectious-disease specialist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University. "Yes it's the same virus and could have the same outcome if patients do not take advantage of treatment, but in no way does it need to be the same."
Newman, who finished her training about the same time HIV infection began consuming her specialty, also has too many memories of lives lost to HIV. But two-plus decades later, most patients can live long and well taking a single pill daily.
A $3.4 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Georgia Health Sciences University will help maintain the new normal. Funds ensure that uninsured patients in the Augusta area get medication and other needed treatment and that the Ryan White Outreach Team continues to reach into the community with rapid testing, education and treatment referrals. GHSU has been funded since 1995 through the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act to provide these services in 13 nearby Georgia counties as well as Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.
"We have gotten considerably better at treating the disease," said Dr. J. Peter Rissing, Chief of the MCG Section of Infectious Diseases and the grant's Principal Investigator. "In better than 60 percent of our patients, their virus is undetectable, their immune system is on the rebound, they don't have opportunistic infections. They come see us every six months and we make sure their virus remains undetectable and that their immune system is continuing to mend."
Still, in what Rissing describes as "a dance between the immune
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Georgia Health Sciences University