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Learning to Support Yourself

Part Three of Three in Project Inform's "After You've Tested Positive" Booklet

July 2015

How Do You Get Into Health Care?

Getting Into Health Care

Some people have few problems getting the cost of their health care covered by private insurance, which is generally funded by your current or former employer. Also, all states offer affordable insurance plans for people with incomes higher than is allowed in public plans such as Medicaid.

However, many people with HIV rely on public health care programs or coverage funded by federal and state governments. These include Medicaid, Medicare, Ryan White, and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

You can probably find health care that you can afford or that's very low cost. The difficult part can be locating these resources and putting together affordable care by combining several services. Read our publication, "Considering Treatment and Your Health Care."

A qualified benefits counselor can help you figure out a way through this maze, as can some case managers and social workers. Some "affordable" plans that have reasonable monthly premiums are also the ones that cost the most for prescription drugs and various services, or may have limits on certain drugs. Check with a local AIDS service organization near you, or go online to or

Telling Others About Your HIV Status

Disclosure: Telling Others About Your HIV Status

Telling others about your status can feel scary, but it may also help you cope. People who share this news may enjoy better health, probably due in part to relieving the stress from keeping it a secret. Being open about your status with your medical providers can help ensure you get the best care.

You don't have to tell everyone -- or even anyone -- and you don't have to do it all at once. Choose carefully who you want to tell and who you think will respond well to the news. Be prepared for various reactions, even from doctors and nurses.

Telling others could also mean facing the risk of abandonment or even violence. If you fear telling those close to you, find a support group, a therapist or a domestic violence assistance group to work through those issues.

Main Points to Remember
  • Telling others who can support you can keep you healthy.
  • If you do disclose, plan ahead and decide who to tell.

Laws Regarding Disclosure and Discrimination

Telling co-workers or employers about your HIV status is a different type of disclosure and should be considered carefully before making decisions. Investigate your options with legal experts before disclosing your status at work.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers do not have the right to ask about a disability or your health before hiring you. People with HIV are protected by the ADA, which means employers can't discriminate against you and must reasonably accommodate your physical needs. If you need accommodations, you will need a letter from your doctor, which can state you have a chronic condition as opposed to having HIV or AIDS.

Important federal and state laws prohibit both the disclosure of medical information and discrimination against HIV-positive people. The laws are not perfect and are interpreted differently in each state, so it's important to understand the limits of the laws in your area.

Some states and foreign countries have laws that make it a crime to knowingly transmit HIV to someone else or even to fail to disclose your status to sex partners. While these laws are clearly meant for people who try to infect others, they have been used to threaten or prosecute many. In fact, some laws state that transmission doesn't have to happen for prosecution.

Lining Up Support

Lining Up Support

Although many services exist for people with HIV -- such as medical care, support groups, peer mentors, and referrals to housing and other resources -- it's up to you to engage with them and decide if they're right for you. You may have to keep working at it because the first contact may not be the right fit.

  • Contact community agencies to speak with case managers or social workers to help you find local resources. Some agencies offer these services for free.
  • Find support groups and friends to create a safe space to talk about your life. People who go to support groups enjoy better health and quality of life.
  • Dial "211" to find local services in your area.
  • Go online to explore chat rooms, blogs and "ask the experts" forums.

Checklist for Getting Started

  • I've found support people, such as a social worker or benefits counselor, who can help me find local services or care.
  • I've found a doctor experienced in treating HIV.
  • I know a doctor to go to for my first appointment.
  • I've made my first appointment.
  • I've found other providers, like a dentist or gynecologist, who understand how to treat people with HIV.
  • I've written questions down for my first doctor visit.
  • I've considered telling others about my status and have made a plan for how to do it.
  • I've considered my emotional support needs and will seek help.
  • I know how I'll pay for my HIV care, meds and tests.
  • I've talked to my doctor about vaccines I may need.
  • I've talked to my doctor about screenings I should get, such as hepatitis B and C, cervical and anal Pap smears.
  • My first results are: ____ CD4s, ____ viral load. My second results are: ____ CD4s, ____ viral load.
  • I know what these test results mean.
  • I know what I need to do to get ready for making decisions about treatment.
  • If I have questions and my doctor is not available, I can call _______________ or ______________.

Online Resources That May Help

Resources for HIV Care

Project Inform

Directories for ASOs

Directories for HIV Providers (ReferralLink on right) (click FIND PROVIDER at top) (click FIND PROVIDER at top)

Insurance Programs, Help With Health Costs

Centers for Medicaid/Medicare


HIV Health Reform


Needy Meds

PAN Foundation

Partnership for Prescription Assistance

PAP and Co-pay programs

For People of Color

Asian/Pacific Islander Wellness

Black AIDS Institute

Latino Commission on AIDS

Nat'l Minority AIDS Coalition

Native Prevention Center

For Women

Positive Women's Network

The Well Project


Women Alive

Connecting With Others

HIV+ Bulletin Boards

National Association of PWAs

Poz Community Forums

Yahoo Support Groups

Related Stories

"After You've Tested Positive": Table of Contents
Knowledge: Getting Informed About HIV
Health: Getting Involved in Your Well-Being

This article was provided by Project Inform. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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