HIV/AIDS & Infectious Diseases

Doctor lessoning to a person

Leading the Fight to End HIV/AIDS

Georgia leads the nation in HIV rates for adults and adolescents. That’s why Grady opened the Ponce De Leon Center in 1986. Today, it is one of America’s largest, most comprehensive facilities dedicated to treating advanced HIV/AIDS.

Each year, the Ponce Center provides medical and support services to 6,200 men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS.

We are dedicated to helping patients live long, healthy lives. And, many of the other diseases that people living with HIV/AIDS commonly experience, such as hepatitis C, can be cured with the right medical treatment.

No one in Atlanta offers better, more comprehensive care than Grady’s team of doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff. They help each patient make the right treatment decisions and, where possible, we help them juggle personal and professional responsibilities. After all, your life doesn’t stop when HIV/AIDS strikes.

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Why Choose Us

No one in Atlanta knows more about treating HIV/AIDS than Grady. Since we opened the Ponce De Leon Center in 1986, we have diagnosed and treated one in four of Georgia’s HIV patients with a multidisciplinary staff of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and other experts who have unparalleled experience with HI/AIDS, a progressive disease that – if untreated – worsens over time as it attacks the immune system.

The staff at Grady’s Ponce Center has been at the leading edge of research leading to advances in the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS. Our research has been sponsored by the National Institute of Health and other organizations.

Because the disease can result in a variety of health problems, Grady offers an important advantage: We’ve spent more than 125 years building the most comprehensive medical services in Atlanta, to deliver the best care possible.

HIV/AIDS patients often develop a variety of opportunistic infections and HIV-related cancers that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, funguses, and even parasites. We treat them all. Here are just a few of the most common:

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Cancer

People with HIV/AIDS have an increased risk of developing several cancers, especially Kaposi sarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer; Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and cervical cancer, a cancer of the cervix. If we can do an early diagnosis of these or other HIV-related cancers – before they take hold in various organs of the body, such as the lungs and brain – the sooner we can begin treatment and the more likely you are to make a full recovery.

Candidiasis

Candidiasis, sometimes called thrush, is a fungal infection of the mouth, esophagus and/or vagina. Most people already have the Candida fungus in their bodies, but the body keeps it in check. If your immune system is weakened, you are more likely to develop problems.

Coccidioidomycosis

Coccidioidomycosis is caused by a fungus. Most people don’t have symptoms. Others will feel like they have the flu, sometimes with chest pain and a cough. Infection can lead to meningitis, including headache, fever, and altered mental states. Treatment with antifungal drugs usually is given for a long period of time and sometimes for life. Sometimes surgery is required to remove infected tissue.

Cryptococcosis

This fungus is present in soil, usually where there are bird droppings, particularly those of pigeons. It can be passed through the air or wind. It’s important to avoid handling birds, including pets, and to avoid areas with lots of bird droppings. The fungus can infect different organs, including lungs, heart, and central nervous system. Symptoms vary, depending on where the infection occurs. The infection is very serious and can lead to meningitis and pneumonia.

Cryptosporidiosis

This infection is caused by a parasite that can be found in feces and water. The main treatment for cryptosporidiosis is effective HIV treatment. In conjunction with HIV treatment, antimicrobials can hasten clearance and improve resolution of diarrhea. No medication has been shown to cure cryptosporidiosis in the absence of HIV treatment.

Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus is passed by close contact through sex and through saliva, urine, and other body fluids. It can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and by breastfeeding. If you are not infected, using condoms during sex may help prevent infection. Drugs can keep symptoms of the infection under control. Anti-HIV drugs can improve the condition, too. Treatment can prevent further loss of vision but cannot reverse existing damage. If you experience any vision problems, tell your provider immediately.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virally transmitted infection that can lead to lifelong liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and death. People living with HIV/AIDS are often coinfected with the hepatitis C virus,  which is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplantation. New therapies are very effective for the treatment of hepatitis C. In 90 percent of cases, the disease can be cured within months of starting treatment.

Herpes simplex virus

Herpes simplex is common in many people, but more frequent or severe in those with with HIV outbreaks. Symptoms include outbreaks of red, painful sores on the mouth (“fever blisters”), genitals, or anal area. Drugs are available to help herpes blisters heal, but there’s no cure. Outbreaks may occur periodically for the rest of your life. Taking an anti-herpes medication every day can help reduce the number of outbreaks.

Histoplasmosis

This infection is caused by a fungus. It can be serious but is treatable with medications, which need to be continued until the immune system has improved with HIV treatment. In some parts of the country, medication is given to HIV-positive patients with low CD4 counts in order to prevent histoplasmosis.

HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders

HIV can invade the brain and cause a variety of symptoms. Sometimes this disease is called “HIV encephalopathy” or “AIDS dementia” when the symptoms are severe. It is most common in people who are not on effective HIV medications and when the CD4 cell count is very low. This condition is less common with early and continuous treatment of HIV, but less severe forms of cognitive disease are increasingly recognized.

HIV wasting syndrome

Wasting syndrome involves the loss of more than 10 percent of a person’s body weight, accompanied by  diarrhea or weakness and fever that last at least 30 days. The condition may occur in people with advanced HIV disease, and can be caused by many things. The most important treatment uses antiretroviral medications. The condition may also be controlled by eating a good diet.

Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC)

This condition is caused by bacteria that are present everywhere in the environment. It is difficult to avoid exposure because MAC is in so many places, but it usually causes illness only in people in people with very weakened immune systems, like those with advanced HIV disease. HIV drugs, by helping your immune system stay strong, can help your body fight the infection.

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP) is caused by a fungus that is found in many places in the environment. Nearly two out of three children have been exposed to it by age 4. However, PCP usually occurs in persons with a low CD4 cell count. The fungus can affect many organs, the most common being the lung.

Pneumonia

Persons infected with HIV are much more likely than people who are HIV /negative to develop bacterial pneumonia. Fortunately, these pneumonias can be treated with available antibiotics. HIV-infected persons should receive vaccines to help prevent infections.

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)

This disease is caused by a virus called the JC virus. Most people probably are infected early in life. In HIV-positive people the virus can cause disease. The virus is possibly spread through sexual contact, or from mother to child. HIV therapy can reverse the symptoms and keep the JC virus under control

Salmonella septicemia

Salmonella is a bacteria often found in food such as undercooked poultry, eggs, and unpasteurized milk. It is also present in water, soil, and on certain animals, such as reptiles. It is usually is treated with antibiotics. Drug therapy may be required for life to prevent relapses.

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis can occur in people with advanced immune system disease caused by HIV. It can be treated with antibiotics, which need to be continued until the immune system improves through anti-HIV  therapy.

Tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis disease is caused by a bacteria passed through the air when someone with tuberculosis coughs, sneezes, or talks. It is spread easily in closed-in places. Tuberculosis can occur at any time in the course of HIV infection, but most often when CD4 cell counts are low. TB can be prevented and usually is curable.

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Access to Care

Accessing Grady’s Ponce De Leon Center is simple. We treat individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV. Our services are available to all individuals 24 or younger, regardless of CD4 count or county of residence. Individuals diagnosed with HIV who are over 24 must reside in the 20-county Atlanta Eligible Metropolitan Area and have a CD4 count of less than 200 or an AIDS defining illness, be a pregnant woman, be a Grady patient, or meet other criteria.

If you are HIV+ and are interested in receiving care at Grady, please call (404) 616-2440 to find out if you are eligible to become a patient.

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Locations and Directions

Ponce De Leon Center
341 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 4:30 PM
Extended hours on Thursday

(404) 616-2440 (Main)
(404) 616-1000 (Appointments)

Parking is available

Public Transportation

  • Buses: 2, 99, 102

Need directions? Download Grady GO! our free app for turn-by-turn directions to your destination.

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Our Services

One of the largest and most comprehensive HIV treatment programs in the nation, the Ponce Center provides care for more than 5,000 thousand men, women, and children. The center partners with many local AIDS service organizations – some housed onsite – to meet the complex needs of patients. The 90,000 square-foot facility offers an extensive range of outpatient and community based services, including:

Dental clinic

People living with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to infections including dental infections, which can affect their overall health. Because of this higher risk for oral infections and tooth loss, Grady offers comprehensive dental care services through Ponce. Specially trained dentists work in collaboration with Ponce physicians to offer routine dental care that compliments the combination antiretroviral therapy Ponce uses to treat the HIV condition and restore immune system function.

Acute care services

Sometimes, people living with HIV/AIDS require acute care. Ponce can provide it. The center has its own lab, imaging facilities, and infusion area, which enable it to treat patients quickly and efficiently.

Cancer care

Grady’s Ponce center routinely provides cancer care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Some forms of cancer are more common among those infected with HIV. The Ponce center offers a variety of cancer treatments, including infusion services.

Neurology services

The center treats AIDS-related disorders of the nervous system that may be caused directly by the HIV virus, by certain cancers and opportunistic infections, or by toxic effects of the drugs used to treat symptoms.

Primary care services

Grady’s Ponce Center provides primary care for men, women, adolescents, and children who live with HIV/AIDS. Those infected with HIV typically are more susceptible to infections, even routine infections that healthy people routinely shake off.  Our staff understands HIV/AIDS patients require special attention and care.

Pulmonology services

Because lungs are most often affected by HIV/AIDS, our patients often develop a pulmonary complication. We routinely treat conditions ranging from pulmonary infections to tuberculosis.

Psychiatric consultation services

We provide behavioral health services to Ponce patients who need behavioral health support. The service includes psychiatrists, physician assistants, and psychologists.

Dermatology care

Many people with HIV/AIDS develop skin conditions like Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Palliative care

Ponce offers palliative care through a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who provide an extra layer of support during normal treatment. Palliative care can help to manage symptoms like pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and treatment side. It can also offer support through depression, anxiety, and fear.

Opthalmology

About 70 percent of people with advanced AIDS have eye disorders. Our opthalmologists know how to diagnose and treat eye disorders related to HIV/AIDS.

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Support Services

 

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Adherence counseling

Sometimes it is difficult to comply with a prescribed drug regimen. Ponce has dedicated adherence counselors who provide counseling to help patients comply with their treatment requirements.

Mental health counseling

Grady offers access to counseling services to help heart patients cope with depression and other emotional issues that often accompany the disease.

Pharmacy

Grady has a pharmacist dedicated to the Ponce Center to see patients and educate them on their medications.

Case management

To help HIV/AIDS patients overcome the obstacles that get in the way of effective treatment, we have dedicated case workers who provide support and access to other Grady resources.

On-site radiology

The Ponce Center has its own on-site radiology department to provide patients with easy access to the imaging technology needed to efficiently and quickly diagnose patients.

On-site laboratory

The Ponce Center’s on-site laboratory ensures that patient tests are processed quickly and efficiently.

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Research

As one of the nation’s elite teaching hospitals, Grady’s clinicians have been involved in a variety of research programs that have sought to improve the treatment of HIV/AIDS. We remain committed to doing vital research that will continue to redefine its care.

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Grady Stories

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Our Doctors

Every hospital treats patients. At Grady, we strive to treat them better, more efficiently, and more effectively. Our mission to care for all who need us attracts HIV/AIDS specialists from across the nation. They are drawn here by the knowledge that we test the limits of medicine by innovating existing standards of care, researching cutting-edge drugs and therapies, and exploring novel treatments.

Our zeal for innovation has given Grady a national reputation for medical advancement in areas like HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, burn, stroke, diabetes, infectious diseases, women’s health, sickle cell, and other conditions cared for by specialists in our centers of excellence. Access to all of these accredited practices is available to every Grady patient and our collegial environment means that specialists routinely help to care for their colleagues’ patients.

Though clinicians are drawn by Grady’s reputation, most are employed by the Emory and Morehouse schools of medicine, which staff our medical services. Grady is one of a handful of U.S. health systems.