You & Your Provider
Who provides HIV care?
Choosing a clinician who will provide your HIV care is a very important step in getting the treatment you need to stay healthy. Providers are medical professionals who work with you to manage your HIV care. Many providers will also manage your primary healthcare needs as well. HIV care providers can include:
- Nurse Practitioners
- Physician Assistants
Your primary provider will probably work with a large team of other important healthcare professionals to ensure that you have the best care possible. Other important members of your healthcare team may include:
- Social workers
- Case managers and/or other health professionals
Choosing a Provider
Everyone will work together to ensure you have the best plan of care and that all your medical, psychological, and social needs are met.
When choosing and working with a provider, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- It’s possible that you will be referred to an HIV specialist by your HIV testing center or your primary healthcare provider. If not, you may want to locate resources in your community that can help you find a HIV service provider. You can always change your provider later if they are not a good fit.
- It’s important to remember that not all providers are specialists in HIV. It’s perfectly fine for you to ask them about their training or experience in treating people living with HIV. A good healthcare provider will not be offended or defensive if you ask.
- You are entitled to quality care for your HIV disease. Geography or funding may limit your choices about who your care provider will be, but you have a right to expect treatment from a competent and caring medical professional.
Helping your provider help you
- ALWAYS be open and honest with your provider about things like:
- Medication—Have you missed any doses of medication? Have you taken them on time?
- Side effects—Are you experiencing any problems with your meds? Have you noticed any changes in your body (e.g., fatigue, weight loss, diarrhea) that might be related to your HIV meds?
- Sexual activity—Are you having sexual contact? Are you protecting yourself and your partner(s)?
- Be prepared and on-time to your provider visits. Bring all the necessary materials (see below) for you and your clinician to review.
- If your provider asks you to take other medical tests or gives you a referral to a laboratory or another provider, follow up promptly. These tests and referrals need to be done on time so that you and your healthcare provider have the information and support you both need to manage your care and keep you healthy.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
- A list of any questions you may have about HIV disease, medications, etc. During an appointment, it can be easy to forget questions you meant to ask. Your best bet is to write them down and show them to your provider. Remember: There are no stupid questions!
- If you have gotten information from friends or the Internet, it’s a good idea to bring this up with your provider too.
- A list of all the medications you are currently taking, including nonprescription ones, like vitamins or other supplements (e.g., Omega-3 fish oil), or the medications themselves. It is important for your providers to know this information because interactions between different medications in your body can have serious side effects, or make some of your HIV medications less effective.
- Your most recent lab results, if you have them
For more information, see the Department of Veterans Affair’s Work with Your Doctor.
Fact Sheets & Print Materials
- AIDSinfo - Fact Sheet: Seeing an HIV Doctor
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I wait before finding an HIV/AIDS provider?
Not long. An HIV specialist will want to do lab tests to check on the stage of HIV in your body (your CD4 count and viral load). These are important initial tests because they can help determine the best treatment plan for managing HIV in your body. In addition, your provider will want to get baseline tests to evaluate your overall level of health. This “big picture” can help your provider determine whether you need medications for your HIV disease and which ones are most appropriate for you. For more information, see AIDS.gov’s Stages of HIV Disease and Initial Tests.
- Department of Veterans Affairs - HIV/AIDS: Just Diagnosed
Last revised: 06/01/2012