What Healthcare Providers Do You Need on Your HIV Care Team?

From primary care providers to mental health professionals and dentists, here’s who you need on your team.

Medically reviewed in August 2021

With treatment, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. Treatment for HIV involves anti-retroviral therapy (ART). These medications do not cure HIV but will keep the infection suppressed. To work effectively, these medications must be taken every day of a person’s life.

Treatment also involves working with a variety of healthcare providers and specialists, who can help you address the various ways that HIV impacts your life and your health.

Providers that treat HIV
First and foremost, you’ll need a healthcare provider that has experience treating HIV. This may be an MD (Doctor of Medicine), a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), a nurse practitioner, or a physician’s assistant. Some women may prefer to see an obstetrician (OB-GYN) with experience treating HIV.

  • This provider will function as your primary care physician, overseeing your treatment for HIV as well as other important areas of your health.
  • They will prescribe your HIV medication and monitor your progress with treatment.
  • They will also monitor your overall health and any other conditions you have, and coordinate other aspects of your care, such as referring you to other providers or specialists.
  • Nurses will also be a part of your team and will help provide and coordinate the different aspects of treatment.

Mental health professionals
Managing a chronic, lifelong health condition like HIV can take a toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing. People living with HIV are advised to work with a provider that addresses this important area of their health—such as a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. A mental health professional can help you find strategies for coping with the negative emotions that often accompany a diagnosis of HIV. They can also help you address stigma, learn how to talk to others about your diagnosis, and maintain a mindset that will help you follow your treatment plan.

Many people with HIV also work with substance use specialists, counselors who have training and expertise in helping people who want to stop using drugs and/or alcohol.

Pharmacists
As mentioned above, treating HIV involves taking medications every day. This means that you will be seeing your pharmacist on a regular basis. While most transactions at a pharmacy are as simple as picking up your medication and being on your way, remember that your pharmacist is a great source of information anytime you have a question about your medication—such as questions about dosing instructions, side effects, or drug interactions. Your pharmacist can also help you stay up to date on vaccinations (which are an important part of HIV treatment and preventive health).

Help with the practical aspects of treating HIV
There are also healthcare providers that can support you with the practical aspects of HIV treatment—things like financial assistance or working with an insurance provider. Examples of healthcare providers that can help you with the practical aspects of HIV care include healthcare social workers, case managers, and patient navigators.

Dentist
People with HIV are at an increased risk of infections, including dental infections. Regular visits to your dentist can help identify and treat any issues with your teeth and gums.

Advocating for yourself
Last but certainly not least, remember the important role you play in your HIV care. While your healthcare providers are experts in different aspects of medicine, you are the expert on you. Staying engaged in your treatment and learning how to communicate your experience are essential to staying healthy.

Medically reviewed in August 2021.

Sources:
HIV.gov. "Growing Older with HIV."
HIV.gov. "Who Should Be on My Health Care Team."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Who should be on my health care team?"
UpToDate. "Patient education: Initial treatment of HIV (Beyond the Basics)."
UpToDate. "Patient education: Preventing opportunistic infections in HIV (Beyond the Basics)."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "HIV Infection and Adult Vaccination."
HIV.gov. "Mental Health and HIV."
American Dental Association Mouth Healthy. "HIV/AIDS and Dental Health."
Government of Western Australia Department of Health. "Partnering with your health care provider."

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