UIC expands HIV/AIDS training for health providers

Student health professionals

A new grant to MATEC, the Midwest AIDS Training + Education Center, will fund new projects that teach best practices in HIV/AIDS care to primary caregivers.


UIC received a four-year, $11.4 million grant from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to support the Midwest AIDS Training + Education Center, one of eight regional centers administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

MATEC, established at UIC in 1988, is an information clearinghouse that trains physicians, nurses, dentists, social workers and public health officers in HIV/AIDS care and prevention.

Through seminars, classes and online training, MATEC serves 10 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio.

“MATEC’s goal is to increase the number of health care professionals prepared to provide high-quality HIV care to their patients, especially in the hardest-hit minority communities,” says Ricardo Rivero, MATEC executive director and clinical assistant professor of family medicine.

“It’s hard for a general practitioner to know everything there is to know about HIV/AIDS through traditional medical education,” said Patrick Tranmer, professor of clinical family medicine and principal investigator on the grant.

“HIV/AIDS is a particularly complex disease to manage and treat. MATEC is really fulfilling a very important role for the thousands of health care workers who see patients with HIV in their daily practices.”

HIV/AIDS prevalence varies across the Midwest, with urban areas like Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis having the greatest incidence.

Rivero said recent outbreaks of HIV in Southern Indiana point to the continuing need for vigilance. Existing providers must be prepared and new providers must be trained, he said.


Best practices for viral suppression

Many HIV-positive patients have no detectable virus in their blood because they are receiving good treatment. In Minnesota, more than half of people who are HIV-positive have no detectable virus, compared to only a quarter of those in Indiana. The average for all states is 30 percent.

Tranmer says “solid evidence” shows that when a patient’s viral-load is held to an undetectable level, it improves the patient’s quality of life and eliminates the chance of infecting others.

“The more caregivers we train on best practices for achieving viral suppression, the more new infections we can prevent,” he said.

Rivero said much responsibility rests on patients, who sometimes stop seeing their physicians before they are assigned a treatment plan.

“MATEC is working on developing interventions and support systems for patients so that they don’t fall between the cracks,” he said. “We want to get every patient to the point where their viral-load is undetectable.”

The new grant will also support new programs. Rivero and his staff have identified 14 clinics in areas in greatest need of high-quality HIV resources. MATEC will work with these clinics to expand and improve their quality of care.

MATEC and UIC’s Center for Excellence in Interprofessional Education will develop an HIV/AIDS training curriculum in partnership with Indiana University and the universities of Minnesota, Cincinnati, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

The curriculum will cover all aspects of HIV care and treatment and show students how doctors, nurses and other professionals work as a team to manage HIV care.

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