Prior to ending up living in the sparsely populated area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I had resided in Portland, Oregon. That metropolis is also where I tested positive in 1987. It was in Portland that I encountered a few phobias of healthcare workers on the occasions that I did seek consultation at the county medical clinic. One incident in particular stands out in my mind. One doctor had an aversion to making any kind of physical contact. He didn't mind chatting up a storm, though. On that one occasion, an anal swab was required -- I don't recall for what -- but he took the swab, handed it to me, and said, "Here, stick this up your ass and hand it back to me." How professional.
In 1992, I found myself moving to the Iron Mountain area of Michigan. The need for dental attention came up, and I was very fortunate to be referred to a local dentist who had no problem whatsoever in treating an HIV-positive patient, nor did any of his staff. I have been a patient there since and have never had a problem.
It was my choice not to pursue any of the treatments being offered when I tested positive, as I felt they were ineffective and more time was needed to research them. I continued to resist any of the available medications up until 1996 when I read about Crixivan and decided it looked promising. An infectious disease specialist out of Marquette, Michigan saw me and prescribed a combination that included Crixivan. I have been on various combinations since then and continue to do well. I am extremely pleased with the services of that doctor, his medical staff, and the two other doctors that have since joined his practice, all of whom are extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and caring.
While I had doubts at first about the quality of care in any area -- especially one so isolated -- I immediately realized that this thinly-populated area is quite fortunate to have doctors of such high caliber and who don't in any way, shape, or form discriminate on account of HIV status. The past couple of years I have chosen to deal with one particular doctor in that clinic even though any of the others would be perfectly acceptable. I just feel more comfortable dealing with one person each and every time. When I come for my appointment, the doctor spends a minimum of 30 or 45 minutes with me. This doctor even calls me at home with test results. And when I call the office with questions from time to time, he calls me back. He's a peach, and I feel so fortunate to have quality medical care in this middle-of-nowhere area.
It has been my observation that I receive better care and that more funds are available per person here because it is so isolated and because the area is not overwhelmed with HIV cases as many metropolitan areas are.
While I realize my experiences in this area have been exceptional, I am pleased that I have nothing to complain about, and would urge any person experiencing difficulties in other areas to move up here to take advantage of the fine care available. Of course, there is one drawback -- it tends to be lonely with not much going on socially!
Name Withheld is a baby boomer gay man living near Iron Mountain, Michigan. He works as a caregiver and enjoys traveling to populated areas to enjoy the flavor of the urban jungle.
This article was provided by AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. It is a part of the publication ACRIA Update. Visit ACRIA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.