LSU Health Shreveport physician calls for a heavy dose of H.I.V. education

Mar 8, 2013

A pediatric infectious disease specialist at LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport says the treatment protocol for H.I.V. infected newborns will remain the same for now. According to Dr. Lisa Hodges, there's still a lot to unravel in light of recent news that a baby in Mississippi was said to be cured of H.I.V. with an aggressive load of antiretroviral drugs administered hours after birth.

Dr. Lisa Hodges, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at LSU Health Shreveport, says an aggressive effort to teach teenagers about the dangers of H.I.V. could go a long way to curb the infection rate in Louisiana.
Credit Kate Archer Kent

“If it’s true that this baby was indeed infected, and now has no sign of virus, that would tell us a lot about the infant’s immune system and our ability to control the virus or eradicate it early," Hodges said.

Perinatal transmission of H.I.V. pales in comparison to what Hodges views as the epicenter of the epidemic. Teenagers are spreading the virus through unprotected sex. Hodges is currently working on 25 cases involving teens who are living with H.I.V.

“Most of those kids are on therapy and doing OK," Hodges said. "A lot of times, we’ve had to take them out of their home, particularly if the mother doesn’t take her own H.I.V. medicine and she gets sick and then can’t care for the child. That’s happened over and over and over.”

Hodges is concerned that area teens aren’t being adequately educated about H.I.V. Louisiana has the second highest H.I.V. infection rate per capita in the nation. She faults the state’s abstinence-only curriculum.

“It’s like we’re turning a deaf ear toward the epidemic. Meanwhile, kids 13 to 24 are getting infected from their partner," Hodges said.

Hodges treats several babies a month who are born to H.I.V. positive mothers. She said the process of finding out whether the baby is infected takes about six months.