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2005-03-12-HIV will make me a more compassionate GP
A former doctor says his HIV diagnosis will make him a better medic when he returns to practice.
Dr Simon Hincks left medicine in the early 1990s feeling disillusioned, disenchanted and "burnt-out".
He took a number of fill-in jobs, including cleaning, envelope stuffing and market research, before making the decision to go back to medicine.
"When I left medicine I swore I would not be going back. But it suddenly dawned on me that it was the time to go back and nobody was more surprised than me"
Now he feels ready to resume his medical career. He is re-training as a GP.
Dr Hincks says his experiences of living with HIV, since his diagnosis 10 years ago, will help him empathise with patients with serious illnesses and those facing death.
"Now I am quite practical in dealing with death - it has helped me deal with my own mortality," he said.
"I hope my whole experience has made a difference in how I deal with patients."
Dr Hincks said his 1994 diagnosis had had a profound impact on him.
"I think as a doctor I had no understanding of what it was like being on the other end of a diagnosis.
"I remember it was the first time I began to look into myself for my own sense of the world."
He said he was shocked by what he found. People around him were treating his diagnosis as a death sentence - and he felt no differently.
"I was surrounded by the doom and gloom of the early 90s' Aids campaign."
"The impression then was what you were contending with was that HIV equalled Aids which equalled death. But that was not my belief."
"When I was diagnosed, I was shocked and I had fear, but there was an overwhelming sense that this was what I was waiting for.
"It was my worst fear realised, but it felt like it had given my life a purpose and that this was my path and I had the feeling that it was going to be alright."
Controversially, Dr Hincks decided to shun hospital treatment for his condition and discharged himself from the clinic that was treating him after just two months.
He has not been back to hospital for any type of treatment or monitoring, and says he has "never felt better".
I come across people who say I am a fool or irresponsible, and some think that because I am not going to a clinic that I am in a state of denial, but that is not the case.
"Taking this decision has been a long study. My philosophy has never been that I am looking for a cure."
Dr Hincks became involved in complementary therapies and says he plans to encourage these when he eventually takes up general practice.
"I want to try to promote healthy ways of living in a much more holistic way. I would like to work in an integrated holistic centre into healthy eating and healthy living.
"Primarily I would encourage people to tune into themselves about what is right for them. I have taken this course but I do not think it is the only course. I would encourage people to take their own course."
He said working in general practice, rather than in a hospital environment, would give him the flexibility to promote healthy living.
There are guidelines affecting what Dr Hincks can and can not do medically because of his HIV status - for example, he will not be able to operate on patients.
A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust said Dr Hincks' story showed HIV need not be a bar to a medical career.
"There is no reason why a person with HIV can't undertake a senior patient-facing role within the NHS, and his story is also proof that having HIV need not be a barrier to a fulfilling career.
"The fact that he has a long term health condition can only increase his empathy and understanding for his patients, and we wish him well."