drug users. Shortly after these stories appeared, I began to see one or two patients per week who had dabbled with drugs and were now convinced they were dying. Their symptoms were, for the most part trivial—a sore throat that took longer than a week to get better, a bruise that was slow to heal, or a bump on the scalp that had not previously been noticed. Their anxiety was visible from across the waiting room. Ironically, the patients who actually had the disease were much calmer.
About 25 patients were now coming to the Special Immunology Clinic each week. Of these about 15 actually had AIDS and were being followed by Margaret, Gordon, or myself. Another five were “worried well.” The remaining group did not have AIDS but had symptoms or signs which suggested that something was not quite right with their immune systems. At the time we did not know what to make of those patients.
Brian was 30, muscular, with blond hair and a great tan. He came to the clinic wearing a cut-off sweatshirt and shorts, which exposed part of his rear and sneakers with no socks. He had a lover who had died of AIDS. He lived in Fort Lauderdale and worked as a waiter. Although outwardly at ease, I felt mildly uncomfortable taking care of the increasing number of gays who were coming into my practice. Although Brian suffered some weight loss and diarrhea, he was still healthy enough to be flirtatious. Or was he just having fun with my discomfort?
“You’re kind of cute. I was expecting a lady doctor.”
“Margaret and I work together. I’m kind of a silent partner. I don’t get much publicity.”
“Oh, the Gary Cooper type? Well, that’s okay by me.”
He then launched into a monologue of the difficulties in getting an appointment, taking time off from work to come down from Fort Lauderdale, having to pay his fee in advance and so forth. Another man had come into the examining room with Brian. He said nothing but seemed deeply concerned and watched my every move with great interest.