What's Up, Doc? with Dr. James Downey

Dr. James F. Downey

Dr. Downey joined the hospital in July, 1988 and became the full-time Infectious Disease consultant in July, 1995.  He is currently the Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases.  Dr Downey is also the Infection Control Officer and supervises the Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) program, which is responsible for in-hospital management of hospital acquired infections.  

Hello. I'm Dr. James Downey. It's a well-kept secret but Michael Garron Hospital has an Immunodeficiency Clinic that provides care to HIV-positive persons who live in our community. The clinic was established in its infant stages by myself in 1995 and has been growing ever since. Our patients come from all walks of life: male, female, Canadian born, immigrant, heterosexual, homosexual and many other different ethnic backgrounds. We are especially proud of our peripartum involvement in the care of our series of HIV-positive mothers – all of whom have been successful in delivering HIV-uninfected babies.

I am often asked: “Do HIV-positive people typically die of AIDS?” and the answer is, not very often in our modern day. AIDS is now a rare complication of HIV-Infection. The combinations of medications for treatment are now so powerful that no patient should ever die of opportunistic infections related to advanced HIV infection or AIDS. HIV-infection has really become a chronic condition like diabetes which needs constant treatment and monitoring on how the treatment is working. For persons on anti-HIV medication, life expectancy is almost the same as for identical persons who do not have HIV infection. 

People often say: “HIV patients must take many pills with lots of side effects, don’t they?” This is a complete myth. In this day and age, there are now three different combination pills. These are pills with three drugs in one pill, allowing our patients the luxury of taking only one pill a day with almost no side effects in most cases. So HIV treatment is usually as simple as taking one pill a day. In the Immunodeficiency Clinic, we have all of these combination pills available, as well as many other options. Always remember though, the best strategy is to avoid HIV exposure by using latex condoms for sexual contact with unknown HIV-status partners or using new clean or bleach-cleaned needles.

The Immunodeficiency Clinic provides highly-specialized cutting-edge therapy to our HIV-positive and AIDS patients, and this is just one of the many ways that Michael Garron Hospital is setting a new standard in immunodeficiency care.