"Have you been behaving?" asks my provider with a slight grin. Depending on the amount of men I've slept with that month, I either cringe or smile. But whatever answer I give him, I know I will never be judged for it. That's how I began to build a great relationship with my doctor, because in the past, many providers had been subtly judgmental every time I caught a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or rushed the appointment when I asked questions. Unlike the rest, after almost three years going to Dr. Hewitt, he still provides the same courtesy he did in the first appointment back in 2012.
You may think courtesy and rapport aren't essential to the patient/provider relationship, but trust me, they are! You don't want a provider who says "Do you even speak English?" with a condescending tone, or a provider who sighs every time you catch an STI like it's his genitals that are burning!
Anyhow, to my wonderful luck, it turns out my provider is also gay! The reason I bring this up is because as a gay man, there are certain issues I feel more comfortable discussing with a physician who can relate and understands completely. I've comfortably discussed with him the higher probability of anal cancer in HIV-positive men, the most popular antiretroviral regimens, my mental well-being, difficulty with using condoms, etc.
As if all this wasn't enough, Dr. Hewitt went on to save my gallbladder from being removed! One of my medications was not being processed properly and therefore, accumulated in my gallbladder causing "slush" and severe pain. I went to a GI specialist who said to remove it and even went as far as meeting the surgeon (who said the same thing) and setting the date. Something told me to see Dr. Hewitt first and bam he said one of the meds was causing the pain and removing my gallbladder was completely unnecessary! Changed my regimen and thanks to his competence I got to go on my cruise with no problems. (I was going to have to cancel due to the surgery.)
I've always felt comfortable being HIV positive, but meeting Dr. Hewitt led to this overall feeling of total control over my chronic disease, something that I once thought I had no control over. Every four months I go for my routine bloodwork and there's Dr. Hewitt answering every one of my questions thoroughly, whether it be about my T-cell count or if it's possible to tighten anal muscles. He listens to all my concerns and addresses each one, even the time I had questions about my mother's health! With a pat on the back, he leaves the room at the end of our appointment, and I sit there waiting for the nurse to take blood, feeling safe knowing I'm in the hands of someone who really cares for me as a human being. Thank you, Dr. Hewitt.
A good relationship with your medical provider is a powerful tool in your tool belt for living well with HIV. In this series, My Provider and Me, we ask each of you to write about how your relationship with your provider has helped support your health and wellness -- whether it be through help with treatment choices, adherence, support for navigating chronic conditions, or something else! We ask that you submit a story of no less than 300 words to email@example.com. If you can, please include a photo or selfie with your provider, showing how much you two care for each other!