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Piece of Mind
One of the most profound yet overlooked consequences of the levee failure is the absence of mental health specialists in the city. At a time when New Orleanians need it most, when it has become increasingly hard to find support from old friends or neighborhood hangouts, many therapists and social workers have left the city.

In recognition of the continued need for mental health services, the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans and the LSU Behavioral Sciences Center Outpatient Clinic are expanding their enterprise. A public health grant has enabled the clinic, located at 3450 Chestnut St., to add two new floors so it can treat patients of all ages.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers will offer a wide range of mental health outpatient services, including medication management, play therapy for children, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family and couples therapy. The clinic accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurances. It also will provide discounted and possibly free care (including transportation and medications) to those who qualify based on income.

For more information or to schedule and appointment, call 412-1580. — Marr

Talking About Cancer
Among the many challenges that mothers with breast cancer and their spouses and supporters face, few are as delicate as explaining their condition to their children.

Members of the EnCourage support group, an alliance formed through the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, present a talk with Debbie Regan, assistant director of The Parenting Center at Children's Hospital, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wed., April 9. She will lead a discussion on topics such as when to tell your children about your diagnosis, what information is appropriate for certain ages, how to prepare them, how to answer their questions and calm their fears, and how to tell if they are coping well or need professional help.

"Parents often struggle with what to tell their children," says Regan. "How much they need to know and can handle depends on the children's age and level of maturity. Even small children will figure out that something is wrong, even if you don't tell them."

The meeting is free and open to the public. Space is limited and reservations are required. To reserve a spot, call 899-2800 or email encourage@breastcenter.com. — Marr

Blocking HIV
New Orleans researchers are conducting tests on a drug that could prevent the transmission of the HIV virus in women. The scientists, part of the New Orleans Regional Biosciences Initiative, are currently testing the medication, vaginal microbicides, at Tulane University's National Primate Research Center.

During heterosexual intercourse with an HIV carrier, the infection is transferred across the mucosal surfaces of the vagina, making women much more vulnerable than men for contracting the virus. HIV in turn infects receptors on a woman's immune cells. The microbicides are referred to as fusion inhibitors because they bind to the immune cells' receptors, blocking HIV. The microbicides come in a gel form and are applied topically.

Dr. Ronald Veazey, a researcher at the Tulane center, says that the gel has proven effective in primate testing for preventing HIV infection, and they are focused on developing versions of the gel that can be used in human trials. — Winkler-Schmit

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