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Is what my doctor did normal practice?
Jul 10, 2009

I contracted HIV last year from my bf. I tested negative in June 08 but in January 09 I tested positive. I went to see a specialist and had all of my bloodwork done. When i called back he said everything was fine he'll see me in July. I had my blood work done two weeks before my appointment. The day of my appointment I asked him to see my bloodwork. He was hesitant to let me see it. He said all in all I am pretty healthy. However my tcell count dropped but my viral load is still 9,000. He said my tcell the last time I came in was 260 and now it is 219. He never mentioned putting me on meds after that first visit. I thought I should have been on meds in January from the results of the bloodwork. Even more so now but he still was not going to put me on meds until I told him that I wanted to be on meds and now with a cd4 count of 219. Everything I have read as soon as a person is below 350 they should be put on meds but at 260 and now 219 I definitely should be on meds in my opinion. He finally agreed to put me on meds but he was just going to put me on atriplia without doing a resistance test. Which isn't that important considering the person I contracted this from is resistant to atriplia. I argued with him some more about getting the resistance test done. Again I think that should have been done my first visit especially with a cd4 count of 260. Is it just me or is everything my doctor did wrong? I've already called my main doctor for a referral to a different doctor after this experience. My new doctor comes highly recommended by people I have talked to.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

The care you have received so far is substandard on many levels. The recommended "standard of care" for anyone who tests HIV positive is to see them back to explain the results of the lab work and develop a plan for follow-up care and laboratory monitoring. The current guidelines recommend combination antiretroviral medications be started when the CD4 count falls to 350. That your initial count was 260 and your doctor only suggested repeating your labs in six months is unconscionable in my opinion.

If you know you contracted HIV from your boyfriend and he is resistant to Atripla, you definitely should not be started on Atripla!! A resistance test (genotype) should be performed before you begin treatment.

". . . Is everything my doctor did wrong?" Well, let me put it this way. Did he happen to work for the Bush administration before becoming your doctor? Or maybe he purchased his medical license on EBay? As mentioned above the care you've received so far is substandard. Get out of that office and don't look back. I'll reprint below some information about choosing an HIV specialist.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

Just found out... (CHOOSING AN HIV SPECIALIST) Sep 20, 2008

Well, doc, the feelings came and went and I got the nerve to test. It was positive... I don't know what to do now and I don't even know if I have long left cause of how bad I had the ARS and weight loss...

I want to live... I want to live a long happy life... I live in Texas, am I screwed? I'm a student in a grad school, so I'm poor, but what can I do? How do I move forward?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Only those of us who have been through it really understand the full impact of hearing the words "your test came back positive." Many of us feel scared, wondering if we will soon get sick or die. We fear that we will be shunned, lose our jobs or maybe our housing; that we won't be able to have children; that we'll never be able to date, get married or have sex again. None of these things are, in reality, true.

The virus found me while I was working over 17 years ago! Back then, the prognosis for HIVers was about 10 years max. We've made remarkable, in fact miraculous, improvements in treatment of HIV/AIDS, which have dramatically decreased both morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) as demonstrated by the fact I'm still here answering your question rather than pushing up daisies. It is true we do not have a cure, but for many of those lucky enough to have access to antiretrovirals and expert (or at least competent) HIV medical care, "virally-enhanced," healthy and fulfilling lives are truly attainable. Here in the U.S., even for those who don't have or can't afford private health insurance (this includes undocumented immigrants, by the way), it is possible to get quality HIV care and support in most areas of the country.

Now that you know you are HIV positive, I would recommend two simple first steps:

1. Consult an HIV specialist. She will be able to assess the severity of your HIV disease and also help you access the health care system based on your health insurance or lack thereof. To locate an HIV specialist in your area, check the American Academy of HIV Medicine's Web site at www.aahivm.org. There you will find a roster of certified HIV specialists listed by locale. (I'll also print some information below from the archives that discusses choosing an HIV specialist.)

2. Get informed! Learn as much as you can about HIV and its treatments. This Web site is an excellent place to accomplish that. Begin by reviewing the information in the "Just Diagnosed" chapter that can be easily accessed on The Body's homepage under the Quick Links heading. Start with the articles found under the "Just Diagnosed Basics" subheading.

Finally, as far as living in Texas, well, yeah, that kinda sucks, but it really shouldn't impact negatively on your HIV disease.

Start learning more about HIV and get evaluated by an HIV specialist. I'm here if you need me. Let's get through this together, OK?

Dr. Bob

Need a Private doctor Aug 14, 2008

I am HIV Positive living in Seattle area. I currently don't have one and i am looking urgently in a private clinic? Do you know a good one? I asked this question earlier & was told about Peter Shalit who is fully booked until end of year. Please let me know if you have a good one in mind. Thank You.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

I would suggest you consult the American Academy of HIV Medicine Web site (www.aahivm.org). There you will find a list of certified HIV specialists arranged by locale. There are a number of well-qualified HIV specialists in the Seattle area. Be sure you hook up with one that you trust and with whom you can easily communicate. Your health insurance plan may have some restrictions, so remember to check this out as well. I'll repost some information below from the archives pertaining to locating an HIV specialist.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

Choosing an HIV Care Provider

July 18, 2007

Why Is Choosing an HIV Care Provider Important?

Treating HIV disease is very complicated. There are choices to consider at every stage of the disease. It's best if you and your health care provider work together as a team. That makes it easier to choose and stick to your treatment plan. "Care provider" means a doctor, a physician's assistant, or a nurse practitioner.

There are several issues you may want to consider in choosing an HIV care provider. You might decide to have them be your "regular doctor" for all of your health issues. You might use a different care provider for most health issues and use your HIV provider as a specialist. If your regular provider isn't an HIV specialist, be sure they regularly get expert advice on HIV issues.

Training and Experience

Many people with HIV/AIDS get their care from physicians who are specialists in infectious diseases. However, especially now that people are living longer with HIV, it's important to deal with all of your health issues. You might prefer to have a family practitioner or a specialist in internal medicine as your primary physician.

No matter what their specialty, you will get better HIV care from providers who have experience treating people at all stages of HIV disease. Be sure to ask how many patients with HIV they have treated, and how many they currently see. HIV patients do better when their physicians have more experience treating HIV disease.

Do You Have Similar Ideas About Treating HIV?

Some providers are conservative. They prefer "tried and true" methods. Others are more aggressive. They are willing to try new and experimental treatments. Some are optimistic by nature, and focus on the hopeful or positive side when they talk about test results or future prospects. Others are more realistic. Some are pessimistic.

Some providers are comfortable suggesting "complementary and alternative" therapies such as massage, acupuncture, or herbs. Others stick strictly to Western medicine.

If you want a lot of emotional support, you probably won't be comfortable with a health care provider who only talks about test results. The more comfortable you are with their approach to HIV treatments, the easier it will be for you to get the kind of health care you want. Talk to providers and their patients before you make your choice.

The Provider-Patient Relationship

Many patients do better when they take an active role in planning their own health care. These patients do a lot of reading on their own, and bring information to their providers. They work together to make health care decisions.

Other patients are more comfortable with the provider making important decisions. Decide how you want to work with your provider. See if that fits with the way the provider likes to work with patients.

Help Your Provider Help You

Make sure that your provider has all the information needed to give the best advice about your treatment. This starts with your medical records, which may have to be transferred from another office. When you start working with a new provider, they will probably do a lot of tests to collect "baseline" information. This helps you see how well you're doing as time goes by.

Be sure your provider knows how you feel about using medications, and about your illness. Some people don't mind taking a lot of pills. Other people would rather take as few as possible. Are you willing to change your diet, or the amnount of exercise you do? Your provider should also know about other treatments you are using or want to try, including non-medical ones.

Be honest about your lifestyle. Your eating, sleeping, and work patterns can make a difference for your health care. So can your sexual practices and use of recreational drugs. If your provider seems too judgmental, try to change providers. It's better to have a provider who really knows you instead of holding back information.

Let your provider know about the important people in your life: the people who will support you if you get sick, or will help you make important medical decisions.

Availability

The best care provider won't do you any good if you can't get in to see them. Ask them (or their receptionist) how long it usually takes to get an appointment. Find out how well they usually stay on schedule during the day.

The type of insurance you have could limit your choice of a provider. Maybe the provider isn't on the list for your health maintenance organization (HMO) or insurance plan. Be sure to find out how you will be able to pay for their services.

Remember, you don't need an HIV specialist to help you with most of your health care needs. If a good HIV provider is hard to find, or if it's hard to get an appointment, use a non-HIV care provider for your general health care. Just be sure that when you are dealing with HIV issues, you see an experienced HIV provider, or one who consults with an expert in HIV.

Confidentiality

Some people are very concerned about keeping their HIV status private. You might choose to get your HIV care from a provider in another town to protect your privacy. You will need to find your own balance between confidentiality and convenience.

Changing Providers

Your health care needs might change as time goes by. Also, your ideas about treatment could change. Although you will probably get better medical care from a provider who has known you for a long time, you always have the right to stop seeing one provider and change to another.

To Find a Health Care Provider ...

You can get help finding a care provider from your case manager or from your local Department of Health. You can also ask other people living with HIV. The American Academy of HIV Medicine has a web page to help you find a doctor at http://aahivm.org/web/index.php?option= com_comprofiler&task=usersList.

The Bottom Line

HIV medical care is very complicated, and changes quickly. This makes it important to find an HIV care provider who works with HIV/AIDS patients and is committed to staying up to date. Your relationship with an HIV provider will be better if you are comfortable with each other's personal style and approach to dealing with health issues in general, and HIV in particular.


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