Dr. Theo W. Hodge, Jr.
“I see healthcare as ministry. That’s my take on it.”
“The population that I feel I should be ministering to: specifically African-American gay men, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS.”
“I know where I feel most comfortable and where I fit: patient care. I like taking care of patients and being out in the community and seeing people. I feel like I have actually contributed to somebody’s well-being.”
Dr. Theo Hodge Jr. is that extremely rare species in DC: an ‘out’ gay African-American AIDS doctor. He never intended to specialize in infectious diseases when he attended the University of Virginia’s medical school on a military scholarship. He thought he would be an OB-GYN physician. Instead he has become one of DC’s best known AIDS educators and HIV/AIDS physicians – and a face with which HIV positive African-Americans can identify.
While interning in Washington, DC in 1988, he went with a friend to the Whitman-Walker Clinic. His friend went to be tested. Theo went to volunteer. When his friend tested positive “it was my observations of what happened to him that influenced the rest of my medical career. First of all in terms of who he could turn to for healthcare there was a paucity of African-Americans. Completely.” After his friend died, he resolved to “specifically minister to African-American gay men simply because maybe if they have someone who looks like them it might be helpful.”
In 1993, after three years providing medical services in the military, Theo returned to DC to do a fellowship in infectious diseases at Washington Hospital Center and the Veterans Administration. By 1996 he was ready to begin practice and joined a firm providing medical infusions on Capitol Hill. Not having much to do at the firm, he began developing his HIV/AIDS education skills, creating what he calls his “AIDS 101” course: “I was in churches doing HIV awareness talks. I was in barbershops doing HIV awareness talks.”
As the only member of the group of out gay African-American specialists in infectious diseases, Theo was embraced by the leaders of the African-American gay community. His face soon appeared on the back of the gay magazine MaleBox and he was drawn into helping Us Helping Us move deeper into HIV/AIDS education. Theo gave his first AIDS 101 class at Us Helping Us on L St SE in 1996 and was later invited on to the board.
When the Capitol Hill firm went bankrupt in 1998, Theo Hodge and a fellow physician bought the practice continuing their services for another ten years. One of his early goals was to see that African-Americans became involved in clinical trials. Early AIDS treatment clinical trials had few if any African-Americans. He told his patients they needed to be in the clinical trials.
He continually grapples with the uncertainty of insurance coverage as patients he meets in his private practice lose insurance or are covered by less and less comprehensive plans. He often meets patients he first saw in his practice at the public sector medical clinics where he also practices his health ministry. Theo’s healthcare ministry has a special focus on uninsured and underserved patients.
Since first volunteering as a physician at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Dr. Hodge has maintained his service in the public sector. He practiced at Greater Southeast Hospital and Hadley Hospital for a number of years but he was appalled that some of his fellow physicians had convinced patients that they were going to die. He has also worked with Dr. Veronica Jenkins at Family and Medical Counseling Services in Anacostia and at the Washington Free Clinic. His experience at the Washington Free Clinic impressed him: “It was the most dedicated group of people you’d ever want to work with.” Since 2004, He has served as a consultant on HIV/AIDS issues for Community of Hope medical services.
Dr. Theo W. Hodge’s personal ministry continues to be a highly personal delivery of AIDS therapy and education with a special focus on African-American gay men. His greatest satisfaction comes when patients say to him “You look like me. You talk like me. You understand the issues that I have to face in dealing with my sexuality, let alone dealing with my HIV disease. You educate me. You give me the options and you respect my choices.”