BY DANIEL KUSNER
On March 15, 1991, Dr. Nick Bellos saw his first patient living with HIV. The gentleman had an ulcer on his lower extremity. After a biopsy, Bellos began treating his first case of Kaposi's sarcoma.
He refers to the early ’90s as “the dark ages — when we had no drugs. Now we have 24 licensed drugs,” Bellows explains.
In 2005, he opened a 26,000 square foot practice on Lemmon Avenue that contains a clinic, a laboratory, a pharmacy and clinical trials wing. Bellos oversees 26 employees who treat more than 2,800 patients, and Bellos is currently accepting new patients.
“We have a rule. I have to see each patient at least once a year,” he explains.
If patients are coming in for routine viral load and T-cell results, they can see a midlevel provider.
“But if they want to see me, they see me,” he says. “And the biggest thing I’ve learned is to listen to patients’ concerns — if they’re worried about how they look or how they feel. If they’re concerned about their lipids. If they want to talk about their breakup with their boyfriend. If their meds are causing erectile dysfunction …”
About 90 percent of his practice is focused on HIV primary care.
“I’ve been doing this since day one. When I was a medicine resident, we couldn’t get nursing for HIV-impacted patients. We had to give total care, which included bathing and feeding. Because the nurses wouldn’t do it,” Bellos remembers.
But times have changed.
“Now HIV is a chronic manageable illness. But there’s an art to the management,” he explains.
Some of his artistry comes second nature.
“Like aggressively treating patients with multiple opportunistic infections and getting them through those illnesses … It’s interesting to see these kids who are coming out now. They’ve never had that experience — never had that experience when we had no drugs,” Bellos says.