Dr. Petty has been providing compassionate dental care since 1984. The 80’s AIDS epidemic found him working in New York, where he received additional training for dealing with medically complex patients. “I happen to be American, but still a nice guy,” he jokes. “Our hospital in NY was actually the first hospital on the East Coast that was openly welcoming people with HIV. I was one of the first dentists involved with providing oral health care to people that where suffering horribly from this condition,” remembers Dr. Petty, adding that they didn’t even know it was a virus back then. “Because of the hesitation of so many of my colleagues to treat people that deserved care just as much of anyone else, we used to call it FRAIDS. Afraid of AIDS.” It was all wrapped up in homophobia, the fear of the unknown, Dr. Petty believes, saying that he is lucky he was able to provide care to the people that, at the time, no one else wanted to see. “We used to dress up in space suits. We used to drape the room in plastic because they honestly did not know what they were dealing with back then.”
Over 600 patients living with HIV
After six years of working in New York, Dr. Petty moved to Canada. The Government of Alberta was actually looking for a dentist with his particular training to come to Calgary and set up a dental clinic at the Foothills Hospital. “They could not find anybody else willing to see somebody living with HIV, but the profile of people that we saw at the clinic was quite broad, because we didn’t believe in segregating the patients. My early involvement in doing this was very close to my heart and I had already decided that I wanted to do this in my career,” he says.
Dr. Petty has practiced in Calgary since 1989; he has served as Head of Dentistry and Oral Medicine at Foothills Medical Centre; as Regional Division Chief, Dentistry and Oral Medicine for the Calgary Health Region and Tom Baker Cancer Centre. He has led his own private practice at Holy Cross Hospital Centre since 2006. He continues to have patients with HIV, welcomed by a well-trained staff. “We are honoured to be involved as an AIDS Walk sponsor this year. HIV is still relevant, it is still important; we still have to have awareness walks, people like myself to raise our hands and say this is not a problem for us. We have a lot of patients living with HIV; a chart count would show more than 600 patients in Southern Alberta. A lot of the work we do with them is assessment, very specific concerns rather than just looking after their general dental care”, he explains.
“Even in my small, funny little field here, there’s still stigma”
Stigma is AIDS Walk’s theme this year, and Dr. Trey often jokes with his wife that when he dies, she has to explain in his obituary why he died. “I ran into people I’ve known for 20 years and they are surprised I am alive and not dead. Why would I do this unless I had HIV? The stigma is still there and very real. Even in my small, funny little field here, there’s still stigma. It hasn’t surprised me, but it blows me away.”
Dr. Trey Petty is happy that people living with HIV can qualify for the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). If somebody on AISH comes to his clinic, he knows he can provide excellent care without any financial barriers for the patient. “We are lucky to live in a world that is more accepting of people no matter what their condition might be. HIV can affect anyone, and everyone deserves to receive the best care, to be treated like a human being,” says Dr. Petty, who encourages all his friends to come to the Walk and help support the cause.
You too can register and fundraise for the Calgary AIDS Walk & Run at calgaryaidswalk.ca. Join us today and make a difference!