May 27, 2010 | by David J. Hoffman
New HIV/AIDS clinic planned for D.C.

A primary care medical clinic specializing in serving HIV/AIDS patients will soon open its doors, according to its medical director.

Dr. Milton Mills, an HIV/AIDS doctor currently practicing outpatient clinic-based medicine in Northern Virginia, said the new clinic might be based in the relocated D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

The Center, which is seeking a new home before its displacement next month from 1840 14th St., N.W., due to a redevelopment project, has appealed for city assistance. It’s unclear where the Center will relocate.

Mills said the new clinic, sponsored by Alpha Drugs & Medical Supplies, is looking for space now so it can open to the public as soon as possible.

Plans for the new clinic were revealed last week during an Alpha Drugs HIV/AIDS patient “survival forum” at the Hotel Palomar in D.C. No additional information regarding the clinic, such as its staff size or whether it was intended to compete with the specialty HIV/AIDS care that Whitman-Walker Clinic offers, was offered during the event.

Mills, a Stanford University School of Medicine graduate who works as a critical care physician at Fairfax Hospital, made an offhand reference to the new clinic while speaking on the role of nutrition in the treatment of HIV.

During his presentation, Mills emphasized the link between nutrition and health. He also stressed the importance of “dietary intervention” to treat and cure seriously ill patients.

“Medical research shows conclusively that a plant-based diet reduces chronic disease risk,” Mills said. “I find that when people are ill, they are very open to adopting such practices as a vegetarian diet when that will improve their health.”

Mills told a group of about 40 people that he’s “very in your face about what’s good for you,” but his “goal is not to make you all vegetarians.”

“In fact,” he said, “I used to be the biggest meat-eater in my family, and I thought I couldn’t live without it.”

Mills said he changed his eating habits more than 20 years ago, moving from a vegetarian diet to being “95 percent vegan, only occasionally eating something with egg whites in it.” He noted that his dietary changes, despite some initial difficulties, yielded better health.

“Like alcohol or cocaine, meat eating is an addiction,” he said. “And if you don’t believe me, just try taking a piece of chicken out of someone’s hand. They will hurt you worse than a crack addict.”

To successfully adopt a vegetarian diet, Mills said it’s important to “divest food of its emotional meanings.”

“We often think of food in emotional terms,” he said. “For example, food reminds us of Thanksgiving at grandmother’s house. But we need to divest food of these feelings, and not see food in its romantic terms, because food is just chemicals in our body.”

Mills shared reams of data during his presentation, which noted the costs associated with HIV patients who choose to continue eating meat.

“Many antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV stress the body,” he said. “For example, [there is] liver stress and some raise your cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease.”

He said to offset that stress — “and so that these medications don’t have a negative as well as positive effect” — dietary changes are helpful.

“AIDS has gone from being inexorably fatal so that now HIV on therapy taken as prescribed has become basically a chronic disease with a normal lifespan,” Mills said.

He noted this means that an HIV/AIDS patient’s major health risks now often come from other causes, such as Hepatitis B and C, diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, and diet is key to fighting these potential problems.

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