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4-steps to HIV treatment

1. Find Your Doctor

Choosing a doctor is one of the most important decisions you will make. Find a doctor who understands HIV/AIDS, makes you feel comfortable and is someone you can trust. A strong partnership with your medical team empowers you to get the best care possible.

Here are some questions to ask the doctor:

  • Are you board certified in internal medicine, infectious diseases, HIV medicine, or a related specialty?
  • How many patients have you treated with HIV or AIDS?
  • What is the average wait time for appointments? How long does it usually take for you to return phone calls?
  • Do you have a solid referral base of specialists?
  • Do you accept my insurance, Medicaid or are payments required up front?

2. Keep Appointments

Once you find the right medical team be sure to develop good communication, mutual respect and take advantage of every visit. Cancelling or skipping appointments could hurt your treatment and send a message that you don’t take your health seriously.

Here are some tips on getting the most out of your appointments:

  • Share your views. Let your doctor know if something isn't working well for you. At the same time, respect your doctor's concerns and knowledge.
  • Communicate. Reschedule the visits you can not make to ensure a continuity of care
  • Come to doctor visits well prepared. Take the time to become educated on HIV. Then write down any questions, symptoms, side effects, and any changes in your medications. Share this information at the beginning of your visits.
  • Do you have a solid referral base of specialists?
  • Do you accept my insurance, Medicaid or are payments required up front?

3. Take Your Meds

Taking your HIV medications, when and how you are supposed to, is extremely important. This is how you decrease your viral load. If you skip your medication the virus can take that opportunity to replicate and make more HIV. By skipping doses, you may develop strains of HIV that are resistant to the medications. Taking the medications gives you control over the virus.

When taking your medications:

  • Take only the dose you are supposed to and when you are supposed
  • Follow special instructions about taking with food or on an empty stomach
  • If you miss a dose, talk to your medical team

4. Check Lab Results

When you are diagnosed with HIV, lab tests establish a starting point or "baseline" of your health. Future tests will show how your immune system is doing. This allows you and your doctor to tell how fast or slow the disease is moving and if the medication is working. Most labs include a "normal" range (high and low values) when they report test results, and they commonly go up and down over time so don't worry about small changes. Instead, look for overall trends.

The lab tests look at:

  • How well your immune system is functioning (CD4 count)
  • How rapidly HIV is progressing (viral load)
  • What is the average wait time for appointments? How long does it usually take for you to return phone calls?
  • How well your body is functioning (kidneys, liver, cholesterol, and blood cells)
  • Existence of other diseases that are associated with HIV (certain infections)?