HIV

Nebraska Medicine and The University of Nebraska Medical Center HIV Program have been providing clinical care to patients infected with HIV for more than 20 years since the beginning of the epidemic. The HIV Program staff provide education to healthcare professionals as the Nebraska AIDS Education and Training Center (NAETC).

The HIV Program provides comprehensive care of the HIV-infected patient at all stages of the disease. 

What is HIV? What is AIDS?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system (the body’s defense system). The virus attacks and destroys white blood cells called CD4+ cells, which are an important part of the immune system. A weak immune system has trouble fighting off disease. The virus and the infection that it causes are called HIV. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the last stage of HIV disease. There is currently no cure for AIDS.

How is HIV Spread?

HIV is spread by contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids through:

  • Unprotected sexual contact, including oral sex, with a person who has HIV
  • Sharing drug needles with a person who has HIV
  • Mother to child (during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding)

Prevention

  • Practice safe sex by using a condom every time you have sex.
  • Avoid injection drug use. If you use injection drugs, don’t share needles or syringes.
  • Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time. It is safest to have one partner who only has sex with you.
  • Talk to your partner BEFORE having sex for the first time; find out if your partner is at risk for HIV, get tested, get retested 6 months later, and use condoms.
  • Be sober during sexual activity; don’t drink a lot of alcohol or use illegal drugs before having sex.
  • Know your status! Get tested regularly.

Treatment

The standard treatment for HIV is a combination of antiretroviral medications. Antiretroviral medications slow the rate at which the virus multiplies. Taking these medications, as directed by your provider, can reduce the amount of virus in your blood and help you stay healthy.

The decision to start antiretroviral medication depends on your health, your lab results (CD4 count and viral load), and your symptoms. Starting medication is an individualized decision that should be discussed between the patient and the provider.

Follow these healthy practices during treatment:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet; it helps keep immune system strong
  • Exercise on a regular basis; it helps reduce stress and improve your quality of life
  • Don’t  smoke; people with HIV are at higher risk for heart attack and lung cancer and smoking can increase these risks even more
  • Don’t use illegal drugs and limit your alcohol intake

It is important that you learn as much as you can about HIV infection and take an active role in your treatment. Your provider will be available to answer questions about HIV and find the best treatment plan for you. You may also want to consider joining an HIV support group, where members can share information and common experiences.

Multi-Disciplinary Team:

  • Physicians
  • Pharmacists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Registered Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • Patient Resource Specialist

We can provide patients with referrals for:

  • Psychiatric Care
  • Dental Care
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Ophthalmology Care
  • Other medical and surgical specialties

We accept most forms of insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Patients in managed care insurance programs are urged to consult their primary care physicians for a referral before making an appointment.  Patients without medical health insurance may apply for care under the federal Ryan White Care Act Part C & D Program that UNMC administers, but this coverage is limited and subject to fund availability.

Patients are seen by appointment only, though every effort is made to see patients with acute problems as soon as possible.

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