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Calling 888

November 1998

Steven Cordova was diagnosed HIV-positive in mid-1997 and has received individual, face-to-face nutrition counseling. At the request of the author of the accompanying article, he called the Ultimate Balance Nutrition Consulting Center. His reactions follow.

The Ultimate Balance 888 number [888-550-5350] is open until 8:00 p.m. which may be difficult for working folk who cannot call from an office.

I reached a Karri [Karri Koach, the service's Registered Dietitian]. She was very pleasant and did not rush. She responded positively to my inquiries as to her credentials and about confidentiality. She told me she is an R.D. who has completed her internship and that there is an advising physician on staff. She assured me that all calls and services are confidential.

Karri asked the initial and expected "intake"-type questions -- my weight, weight history, and history of HIV-related infections; what medications I take at what dosages, etc. Beyond that I confess that I felt uncomfortable, as I always do, giving my name, address, and date of birth to a stranger -- over the phone -- especially a stranger whom I've just informed of my HIV status. I also felt uncomfortable giving her my doctor's name and my insurance information, although it was only the name of the company, no individual or group ID number.

Moving on to another area.... It is difficult for me to be honest about my street drug history with doctors and mental health professionals, and even more difficult being honest about such things with a sight-unseen R.D. on the telephone. I was not honest, and I do not imagine most people in my position would be.

Karri seemed knowledgeable about HIV nutrition, and she made another telephone "appointment" with me. I noticed, however, that although I told her my cholesterol level is high and that I am currently and with some difficulty attempting to modify my diet, she did not come back to the subject of cholesterol.

She did, however, elaborate on her company's selection of products at length. I was also unimpressed that she said that the company wanted to accept payment from private insurance companies and ADAP, but that the company had not actually come to any agreement with any insurance carrier as yet.

In fairness, I want to stress that this was only the initial assessment call and that follow-up calls would presumably deal more substantively with my individual nutrition needs. Also, I live in New York City, where access to HIV nutrition specialists is easy. If I lived in a more remote area, I might find telephone nutrition consulting very useful indeed.

Back to the November 1998 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.

This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.
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