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HIV, Personal Planning and Legal Documents

July 2003

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Do I need a health proxy?

A health proxy, sometimes called a medical power of attorney, is a document you can use to name someone to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make decisions yourself. It is often combined with medical directives, because you may have a clear idea what you want in some situations but may want someone you trust to step in if you face a situation you did not expect.

A health proxy can also be used to say who should have first priority to visit you in the hospital, and who you want to be able to get medical information about you from your doctors.


Do I need a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a document that names someone to act as your agent to take care of many different sorts of business while you are alive.

The power you grant to that person, who does not have to be an attorney, can be very broad or very narrow. You can name someone to act on your behalf for almost all your affairs, or only in specific areas like insurance or managing your bank accounts.

The power you grant will be good only during your life. You can give the person power to act immediately, or you can say that the agent cannot exercise the power until a doctor says you are unable to act for yourself. The power of attorney can be very useful if you become too sick to manage your own affairs.

Should I nominate a guardian for myself?

A court may appoint a guardian if you become mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make your own decisions. In many states you can sign a document that specifies whom you would like the court to appoint. This may be important if you fear that a court might appoint a family member to manage your affairs who you do not think would be the right choice.

When should I do personal planning?

Right now. Even though it is difficult to think about serious illness and death when you are feeling well, all HIV+ people should make arrangements for the future by completing documents that express their wishes. Making plans for the future while you are healthy and clear-headed will help you keep control over your own life and protect your loved ones.

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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