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How to Find the Right Healthcare Provider to Treat HIV

What to look for in a healthcare provider when you’re looking for a healthcare provider to treat HIV.

Comfort level and confidence are key elements in a good working relationship with any healthcare provider. This is especially true when treating HIV.

Being diagnosed with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) means adjusting to a new normal. While HIV is not curable, it is manageable, and the treatments available today can provide long-term control over an HIV infection.

If you have tested positive for HIV, it’s essential that you find a healthcare provider to work with. Like many aspects of living with HIV, finding a healthcare provider is a different experience for each person.

Here, we’ll look at some qualities and qualifications to look for in a healthcare provider, as well as some strategies for finding a healthcare provider.

Find a provider who is qualified

First and foremost, you will need a healthcare provider who specializes in treating HIV, or a provider who has experience in treating HIV. A provider with training and experience will be familiar with the medications used to treat HIV, the ways that HIV can impact a person’s health, and the challenges that a person faces when living with HIV.

An infectious disease specialist is a medical doctor with education and training that focuses on the treatment of infections, including chronic infections like HIV. In most cases, an infectious disease specialist will oversee treatment for HIV. In some cases, treatment may also be overseen by a primary care provider who has experience treating people who are living with HIV.

Find a healthcare provider you trust

In addition to finding a healthcare provider who is qualified to treat HIV, it’s important that you work with a healthcare provider you trust.

Comfort level and confidence are key elements in a good working relationship with any healthcare provider. This is especially true when treating HIV, a condition that not only requires lifelong treatment, but often involves discussing sensitive and highly personal subjects about your life and your health—such as intimacy, relationships, stigma, finances, and mental health.

You want to be able to describe all aspects of your experience to your provider, because virtually any factor can impact your HIV treatment and healthcare.

Signs that you have found a provider you can work with:

  • You feel comfortable talking to them, even when the topics may be uncomfortable.
  • Their communication style works for you. Some people may prefer a warm, friendly communication style, while others may prefer a more direct and formal communication style.
  • They listen to your concerns and take your concerns seriously.
  • They are patient and provide a thorough explanation when you have a question.
  • They reply when you call or contact their office.
  • They are focused on your overall wellbeing, including mental health, in addition to your treatment for HIV.
  • The office staff is also friendly and helpful.

How to find a healthcare provider

You may begin treatment with the same healthcare provider who diagnosed HIV, or you may need to look for a healthcare provider on your own. If you need to find a healthcare provider on your own, here are a few ways to get started:

  • Make a list of the qualities that are important to you in a healthcare provider.
  • Ask for referrals from friends or family members.
  • Ask for a referral from the medical center where you were screened for HIV.
  • Contact an HIV advocacy group and ask for recommendations.
  • Check for in-network providers through your health insurance plan.
  • If you have a primary care provider, ask for a referral to a specialist.
  • Look up the HIV/AIDS hotline in your state.
  • Visit findhivcare.hrsa.gov and enter your zip code to search for providers in your area.

Do not delay seeking and starting treatment for HIV. Starting treatment as early as possible is associated with better treatment results and better long-term health. It also helps prevent transmitting the virus to other people.

Article sources open article sources

North Dakota Department of Health. I'm HIV/AIDS Positive, Now What?
HIV.gov. Who Should Be on My Health Care Team?
Sampath Wijesinghe and Jeffrey L. Alexander. Management and treatment of HIV: are primary care clinicians prepared for their new role? BMC Family Practice, 2020. Vol. 21.
IDSA Foundation. ID specialists or PCPs: Who should manage HIV primary care?
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV: Talking To Your Patients.
MedlinePlus. Choosing a primary care provider.
Health.gov. Choosing a Doctor: Quick Tips.
National Institute on Aging. How to Choose a Doctor You Can Talk To.
UpToDate. Patient education: Initial treatment of HIV (Beyond the Basics).
HIV.gov. What is HIV Treatment?

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