WFHC has actively been involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS by providing the community with HIV prevention and education programs and access to highly trained health care personnel experienced in the care and treatment of HIV. Services are available to everyone regardless of their race, religion, national origin, or ability to pay. WFHC has trained personnel ready to provide examinations, counseling, and treatment.
The following are just some of the services that Whole Family Health Center offers.
Services for adults with HIV and AIDS
Whole Family Health Center, Inc. provides HIV/AIDS care services including counseling, testing, treatment and linkage to other support services; medical case management; outreach services; diagnosis and treatment of HIV disease; prophylaxis (nPEP and PrEP); and treatment of opportunistic infections and related conditions; dental care for those who are living with HIV/AIDS, pharmacy; and referrals for clinical trials and specialty care.
HIV screening tests are available from Monday thru Friday with an appointment. The Pre and Post-tests are performed by a trained and certified counselor. The center provides pre and post-test counseling. The test is free and confidential. WFHC will also run standard STIs (Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia) and Hepatitis C testing at the same time.
Medical Case management
Patient Navigators are available to serve the needs of patients and their families. The team acts as a link to the community and can provide referrals to other service providers. The aim of the team is to coordinate treatment, management, and provide follow-up care for patients and their families.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. Once you contract HIV, you have it for life.
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.
No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, this medicine can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.
Where did it come from?
Scientists identified a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. They believe that the chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Studies show that HIV may have jumped from apes to humans as far back as the late 1800s. Over decades, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world. We know that the virus has existed in the United States since at least the mid to late 1970s.
How does one get infected?
Generally, a person can be infected with HIV in the following ways:
- By sharing hypodermic needles with an infected blood donor
- By receiving a transfusion from an infected blood donor
- By being treated with a contaminated blood product
- By having unprotected sex with an infected person
- HIV positive mother can infect their babies before birth during the pregnancy, at the moment of birth, or by breast-feeding.
What does a positive HIV test mean?
Once infected with the HIV virus, the body begins to create antibodies against the virus. Antibodies are part of the natural immune response, the body's efforts to fight an infection, and are specific for each antigen, in this case the HIV virus. Within a few weeks, there are detectable levels of antibody circulating throughout the blood, and a physician can determine an infection with a simple blood test. A positive result does not mean that a patient has AIDS. However, it does mean that the patient is infected with the virus even if they show no symptoms and feel well. It also means that the patient can transmit the virus on to others including a future baby, a baby that the patient is breast feeding, or a sexual partner.
What can I do if I'm infected?
There are many positive steps that you can take care to protect yourself and others. You should consider options that keep you and your loved ones healthy. If you don't have a personal physician, speak with one of our HIV counselors at Whole Family Health Center at 1-877-345-9342 to make an appointment.
What are the stages of HIV?
When people get HIV and don’t receive treatment, they will typically progress through three stages of disease. Medicine to treat HIV, known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), helps people at all stages of the disease if taken the right way, every day. Treatment can slow or prevent progression from one stage to the next. It can also dramatically reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to someone else.
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, people may experience a flu-like illness, which may last for a few weeks. This is the body’s natural response to infection. When people have acute HIV infection, they have a large amount of virus in their blood and are very contagious. But people with acute infection are often unaware that they’re infected because they may not feel sick right away or at all. To know whether someone has acute infection, either a fourth-generation antibody/antigen test or a nucleic acid (NAT) test is necessary. If you think you have been exposed to HIV through sex or drug use and you have flu-like symptoms, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection.
Stage 2: Clinical latency (HIV inactivity or dormancy)
This period is sometimes called asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection. During this phase, HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this time. For people who aren’t taking medicine to treat HIV, this period can last a decade or longer, but some may progress through this phase faster. People who are taking medicine to treat HIV (ART) the right way, every day may be in this stage for several decades. It’s important to remember that people can still transmit HIV to others during this phase, although people who are on ART and stay virally suppressed (having a very low level of virus in their blood) are much less likely to transmit HIV than those who are not virally suppressed. At the end of this phase, a person’s viral load starts to go up and the CD4 cell count begins to go down. As this happens, the person may begin to have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person moves into Stage 3.
Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic illnesses.
Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Common symptoms of AIDS include chills, fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, weakness, and weight loss. People are diagnosed with AIDS when their CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm or if they develop certain opportunistic illnesses. People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.
What is PrEP and PEP?
PrEP and nPEP are both part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy which involve the use of antiretroviral medications to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to HIV-negative individuals.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) involves the daily use of antiretroviral medications to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to HIV-negative individuals. In July 2012, the FDA approved the use of PrEP for HIV prevention in sexually active HIV–negative individuals. PrEP is used in conjunction with other prevention methods to reduce HIV transmissions.
nPEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking antiretroviral medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure to HIV to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmissions. There are two types of PEP: 1) occupational PEP, or an exposure that happens in the workplace (such as a needle stick in a healthcare setting), and 2) non-occupational PEP (nPEP), or when someone is potentially exposed to HIV through sexual intercourse or injection drug use. PEP must begin prior to 72 hours after exposure and must be taken over a period of 28 days.