Theresa Galvin MS, RD, CDN
“When people say to me that the AIDS epidemic is over and that it is just a chronic, manageable disease, I reflect on my current experience in provision of patient care,” says registered dietitian Theresa Galvin. “Within the past year, I have taken on a patient case load again, and all the patients referred to me have all had ‘AIDS wasting’ as a diagnosis. Yes, people are living longer, but this myth that the epidemic is over gets debunked each time I make a patient visit.”
Galvin’s work in HIV nutrition care began in the 1980s, when the stigma of AIDS was as debilitating as the disease, and she was part of the earliest efforts to develop a nutrition protocol for HIV treatment.
“At the time, there weren’t any guidelines or articles geared toward RDs who were specializing in HIV/AIDS care,” says Galvin, who authored publications, served as critical reviewer for reports and began public speaking to engage the medical nutrition community. “I was really drawn in… It was a new area that had not been addressed and had very strong clinical implications. At the same time, there was such an intense need because people were dying. I would meet a new patient in the clinic and maybe two weeks later, they’d be in the intensive care unit if not dead.”
Today Galvin is the program manager of a Ryan White-funded program with Village Care in New York. In addition to grant management and overseeing the program’s nutrition services, Galvin’s work in community HIV nutrition care takes her into patients’ homes in the New York City area, primarily Brooklyn.
“I’ve worked outpatient, inpatient and long-term care, but I have spent the last 18 years working in home care. To me, you cannot possibly get to know patients as well and understand what their needs are until you are in their homes,” says Galvin. “We go in and sit at their kitchen tables. We can see most clearly what they are eating and assess their intake, as well as discern whether there are any food access as well as food safety issues.
“Home care is ‘real-time’ intervention… It just doesn’t get any more real,” says Galvin. “It’s been extremely rewarding as well as humbling, which is why I have stayed with it for almost two decades.