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HIV Specialist Midwife

May 4th, 2012 Paths

I wanted to share something I learned about myself recently.  I love caring for HIV+ patients.  Actually, the patients I have been seeing have AIDS.  What is the difference?  A person is HIV+ when they are infected with the virus; a person is said to have AIDS when the virus has done enough damage to their immune system that they have less than 200 CD4 cells or have an opportunistic infection.

This semester, I’ve been doing clinical hours at an HIV center caring for women living with AIDS.  I truly mean living.  The women I met had all been extremely sick at one point, but with good treatment were able to overcome the challenges and now lead basically normal lives with a chronic illness.  I even met a few women who gave birth to HIV- children because the treatments are able to prevent transmission from mother to baby.

As an FNP and a CNM I will be in the rare position that I can provide HIV care and midwifery care to my patients – minimizing the visits and the confusion — improving outcomes by making it easier to access care. I live in a city with one of the highest per capita rates of HIV in the country – one of the highest in the world. I live in the midst of the south, where HIV is spreading the fastest — and it is spreading fastest among young women. I will be graduating with degrees in nursing and public health, so I can work one on one or at the system or population level.  It is almost as if the universe was leading me down this path the whole time, it just took me this long to find it.

Yep, I want to be an HIV specialist midwife when I grow up.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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