You've probably heard this before, but just in case you haven't: For the best HIV care, see a physician who specializes in HIV. You can have the best primary care doctor in the world, but that doesn't make him or her a good HIV specialist.
HIV has become such a complex disease to manage that staying on top of the latest changes and nuances in HIV care is, in itself, a full-time job. As with many things in life, experience is also the best teacher when it comes to HIV treatment: HIV physicians who have a long and dynamic history of treating many HIV-positive patients are more likely to really know what they're doing.
The Body's HIV Leadership Award winners should know. Charles Farthing, M.D., and Keith Henry, M.D., established HIV clinics during the early years of the epidemic, when doctors could offer little in the way of real HIV treatment, beyond a few pills to help stave off opportunistic infections. Kristen Ries, M.D., was the only HIV specialist in all of Utah through much of the 1980s, and today cares for nine out of every 10 HIV-positive people in the state. These physicians aren't just good HIV care providers and prominent researchers, they virtually wrote the book on HIV treatment.
Unfortunately, the process of standardizing what it means to be a good HIV specialist has only just begun, and there's nothing preventing a physician from treating someone for HIV, even if he or she knows relatively little about treatment guidelines or the complexities of antiretroviral use, resistance, side effects and drug interactions.
Fortunately, there can be little doubt about the quality of HIV care our 10 award winners provide. Whether in a city or rural area, whether they primarily care for patients or conduct cutting-edge research, they are a sampling of the best HIV specialists this country has to offer.