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My Cardiovascular Care and HIV

There are times since my HIV diagnosis that I have caught myself settling in different categories of my life. Unfortunately, some of these categories have involved my medical care.

I'm taking a deeper look at my experience with my cardiovascular care and how HIV has affected that care.

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The original cardiologist

I started seeing my original cardiologist when I was hospitalized with life threatening PCP pneumonia and heart failure. Apparently, when your lungs are completely full of fluid, it puts extreme strain on your heart. This ordeal happened 8 years ago, when I was diagnosed with HIV.

Since then, I have had tachycardia. This tachycardia is my primary reason for seeing a cardiologist. Despite all of this, my original cardiologist acted like he was finding out I was HIV positive at the beginning of each appointment and would always react with shock.

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Recent hospitalization

I recently spent a few days in the hospital for a respiratory infection. I normally do hospital visits alone these days; therefore, one nurse struck up a conversation with me. She explained that my CT scan showed an enlargement of my heart. I responded, "Crap, I guess that means I have to see my cardiologist again."

My response caught the nurse's attention and she asked me why I did not like my cardiologist. I explained to her that I have had this cardiologist since I was hospitalized with PCP pneumonia and diagnosed with HIV.

Despite this, every single time I see the cardiologist he sees that I am HIV positive from my chart and asks how I contracted HIV. When I respond that we think it was from a past boyfriend but are not certain, he always responds by stating how uncommon that is these days.

The nurse was annoyed by my story. She did inform me that I did not have to go through my diagnosis story with any doctor. Apparently, the only thing a doctor needs to know is that I am HIV positive. I am sure that part of me knew this information but hearing it from a medical professional made me realize I have been settling in terms of cardiovascular care.

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A new chapter

After getting out of the hospital, I saw my infectious disease doctor for my regularly scheduled follow-up. During this appointment, I asked her for a cardiologist referral. She had no doubt about which doctor she wanted to refer to me.

This new doctor, we will call her Dr. M, is wonderful. She did not hesitate at all about me being HIV positive, and she did not ask how I became HIV positive! I did feel seen for the first time - making me wish I changed cardiologists much sooner.

Dr. M was not worried about my naturally low running blood pressure. She informed me that it was not concerning for somebody my age and size. Much to my surprise, Dr. M also said it would be acceptable if we keep my heart rate under 99 bpm. These facts were very comforting to me.

I have an upcoming echocardiogram. According to my doctor, this type of ultrasound for my heart allows them to measure the size of the chambers of my heart. This is important because if my heart is enlarged, we must try some medications to manage it.

Receiving proper cardio care

At least I have a doctor whom I feel sees me for who I am and not just a diagnosis. I feel confident that she'll be able to guide me to the right plan. I'm thankful for the advice and validation of that nurse. She may have changed the course of my life.

Has being HIV positive affected the medical care you have received? If so, what did you do when this happened?

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