AIDS Face? A Miami Doctor Wants to Fix It on the Cheap

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Before Before and after photos of patients who used Radiesse to combat lipoatrophyAlso known as lipoatrophy, it’s a common side effect of antiretroviral therapy in HIV/AIDS patients, leading to a gaunt, skeletal look in the face because of a loss of fat cells. Some patients also notice their arms and legs getting leaner.“We have men who come in here and have been stigmatized based on how they look. They’re unable to socialize. Being in the social circle, they’re like a dead giveaway for being HIV-positive based on how their face looks,” said Dr. Jason Shapiro.Also known as lipoatrophy, it’s a common side effect of antiretroviral therapy in HIV/AIDS patients, leading to a gaunt, skeletal look in the face because of a loss of fat cells. Some patients also notice their arms and legs getting leaner.

Also known as lipoatrophy, it’s a common side effect of antiretroviral therapy in HIV/AIDS patients, leading to a gaunt, skeletal look in the face because of a loss of fat cells. Some patients also notice their arms and legs getting leaner.

“We have men who come in here and have been stigmatized based on how they look. They’re unable to socialize. Being in the social circle, they’re like a dead giveaway for being HIV-positive based on how their face looks,” said Dr. Jason Shapiro.

A doctor with Tribeca Medaesthetics in Miami Beach, he has been treating patients by using injectable fillers such as Radiesse for about four years now, with dramatic results.

Shapiro, board certified in internal medicine, attended medical school in Haifa, Israel at Technion Medical School. He then returned to the United States to do his internship and residency at St. Michael’s Medical Center in New Jersey.

While originally practicing in Fort Lauderdale, Shapiro noticed a high population of HIV patients coming to see him for the aesthetic side effects of their disease. Rather than use cheek implants, which are expensive, or fat transplants, which can lead to the same problem of lipoatrophy, Shapiro favors injection fillers for the cost and natural look.

Radiesse itself is an expensive procedure, costing up to $10,000 to create a natural looking face in a patient with severe lipoatrophy. However, the company offers financial assistance for patients with HIV/AIDS — the procedure was approved by the FDA in 2006. A single syringe would cost a doctor $300, but with the program, the company will only charge $75.

Shapiro’s treatments are also cheaper because he only has a flat fee of $499, while other doctors will include a higher flat fee as well as an add-on for every syringe used.

“I think that’s the wrong approach. These are gentlemen that really need help and it’s something that can be easily done,” Shapiro said. “They’re applying for financial assistance for a reason.”

In a mild case of lipatrophy, a patient may only need one-and-a-half syringes on each cheek. In patients with severe symptoms, they may need more than six per side. The procedure lasts about a year to a year and a half. About 25 percent of Shapiro’s patient base are men, and up to 70 percent of them come to him for lipoatrophy treatment.

“In literally 45 minutes to an hour, we’re able to transform their face and they come back a week later — a lot of gentlemen are in tears. I mean really, really appreciative on a level that I’ve never seen from any type of other patient that we see in our office to that degree,” Shapiro said. “It’s really dramatic. It really is a wonderful thing and that’s why I insisted on making it affordable.”Christiana Lilly


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