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Living With HIV

Look for a doctor who is a specialist with a large HIV practice who is connected with a quality hospital. Learn how to maximize your time with doctors.

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Choosing an HIV doctor

Even if you do not need treatment at this point, find the best doctor available to you who has experience treating people with HIV. In many instances, treating HIV is more of an art than a science.

The more people with HIV the doctor sees on a regular basis, the more likely he or she is to be on top of the latest treatments, and to have an instinctive awareness of what is going on in patients with HIV. If no such doctor is available locally, consider traveling to a city where such doctors are available. You can then do your treatment at home and be monitored by your local medical practitioner.

We also suggest that you find a doctor you feel comfortable with – including discussing sensitive subjects. For instance, you need to be honest with your HIV doctor about your sexual practices, drug use, and adherence to any agreed to drug regimen. Since there is currently no cure for HIV, assume you will be seeing your HIV doctor for a long time.

As you will see from our tool to help you choose a doctor, we leave it up to you to determine what else you think is important in a doctor. Keep in mind that your doctor will be your partner in your health care.

We recommend that you consider the hospital with which your doctor is connected because you may need hospitalization down the line. If so, you want a hospital that is high quality and used to treating people with HIV.

One way to find a doctor who specializes in HIV is to type in your zip code in: offsite link

NOTE: If your HIV doctor is a specialist in internal medicine (basically a family practice), he or she can also be your primary care physician. If your HIV doctor is not your primary care physician, be sure he or she keeps your primary doctor to date after each visit.

Maximizing your time with a doctor

Start preparing to maximize your limited time with your doctors by taking the following steps. Taking these steps will also help you feel in control.

  • Buy a tape or digital recorder so you can record your sessions and replay them later.
  • Locate a person to go with you to important doctor visits to help ask questions and listen. Sometimes emotions can make it difficult to absorb everything that is said.
  • Buy a fax machine or other inexpensive mechanism which allows you to receive and send lab and medical reports.
  • Start keeping a symptoms diary.
  • Create a list of medications and keep it up to date. (Survivorship A to Z provides an easy chart that allows you to store your list and print it whenever you need it.)

Other diseases

Research indicates that people with HIV have a greater risk of getting other diseases such as  lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. It is helpful to remind your HIV doctor to keep a focus on the whole person, not just suppressing the virus. Doctors can misdiagnose a situation by narrowing their focus to HIV and not noticing that symptoms can point to another health situation.

Smoothing bumps in the road

If your relationship with your doctor gets out of sync, there are steps to take to help smooth the bumps. For instance, meet with your doctor and let him know what you are unhappy about. Offer solutions if possible.

Switching doctors

If it isn’t working out with your doctor, switch to another one. We don’t suggest that you change doctors lightly. However, as things stand now, you will be working with your HIV specialist for a long time.

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