Every six months I am very lucky to visit my nurses and doctors at the Clinical Program of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. Located on the campus of Rockefeller University on York and 66th, the center is at the cutting edge of AIDS research and was recently awarded a $24.7 million grant from the Gates Foundation to launch a new vaccine effort. Numbers, however, are never the entire story. That's what the doctors and nurses made sure I understood when I first went to see them.
That would have been a few weeks after I arrived back in New York. Staying with my family, I knew I didn't have the luxury of sitting on my ass on an uncomfortable couch feeling sorry for myself. The virus coursing through my body may have triggered something that kicked my body and brain into survival mode. I surfed the Internet until I landed at Aaron Diamond. (You can find them at http://www.adarc.org) I sent off an e-mail, and got a response in no time inviting me to come in for further tests. The initial results were pretty grim--a t-cell count below 200 and a viral load in the hundreds of thousands. (A number of doctors recommend starting meds if your t-cell count drops below 350, or if your viral load is very high, but these are personal decisions that are best made after consulting with a doctor.) But the doctor I spoke with calmly and caringly reassured me that everything would be all right. And sure enough, the numbers would bear him out. My last checkup a few months ago showed a t-cell count of 1000 and a viral load that continues to be undetectable after three years.
As of late, there's this Verizon commercial on TV where an individual is constantly followed by his "network" of technicians, engineers and customer service reps, the point being that no one gives you better service. That's exactly how I feel about the people at Aaron Diamond. At every 7am appointment I have, I always feel like all those nurses and all those researchers and all those doctors got up early just for me. If there's anyone out there who's still looking for health care, you might want to check out the network at Aaron Diamond.