I’m an HIV Doc Who’s Losing Far Too Many Patients

Positively Smoke Free

I was working as a medical student at Boston City Hospital in 1984 when I met my first AIDS patient. He was an injection drug user who mystified the medical staff with infection after infection and ultimately died of liver failure and pneumonia. He called me “Dr. John,” after the musician, even though I wasn’t a doctor yet and I had no musical talent. He had no veins, but I had a lot of beginner’s luck drawing his blood. After my first couple of days with him, he wouldn’t let anyone except “Dr. John” take his blood. We didn’t wear gloves back then, by the way. The AIDS epidemic hit Boston a little later than San Francisco and New York, and the doctors were stumped by my patient until a brand-new test for HIV (then called HTLV-III) came out. He tested positive shortly before his death.

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