Just Diagnosed: Next Steps After Testing Positive for HIV
February 27, 2019
What Is the Next Step After Testing Positive for HIV?
Testing positive for HIV often leaves a person overwhelmed with questions and concerns. It's important to remember that HIV is a manageable disease that can be treated with HIV medicines.
The first step after testing positive is to see a health care provider, even if you don't feel sick. People with HIV work closely with their health care providers to decide when to start HIV medicines and what HIV medicines to take.
The use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day. ART prevents HIV from multiplying and reduces the amount of HIV in the body. ART can't cure HIV, but it helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
People with HIV should start ART as soon as possible. In people with HIV who have certain conditions, such as certain HIV-related illnesses and coinfections, it's especially important to start ART right away. Deciding when to start ART and what HIV medicines to take begins with an HIV baseline evaluation.
What Is an HIV Baseline Evaluation?
An HIV baseline evaluation includes all the information collected during a person's initial visits with a health care provider. The HIV baseline evaluation includes a review of the person's health and medical history, a physical exam, and lab tests.
The purpose of an HIV baseline evaluation is to:
What Are Some Questions People Typically Ask During Their First Visits With an HIV Health Care Provider?
People with newly diagnosed HIV infection can have many questions. If you've just tested HIV positive you may have some of the following questions:
What Lab Tests Are Included in an HIV Baseline Evaluation?
The following lab tests are included in an HIV baseline evaluation.
ART is recommended as soon as possible for everyone with HIV, no matter what their CD4 count is. However, a low CD4 count (below 200 cells/mm3) increases the urgency to start ART.
The CD4 count and viral load test are both used to monitor the effectiveness of HIV medicines once ART is started.
An HIV baseline evaluation also includes other tests, such as a blood cell count, kidney and liver function tests, tests to check the levels of glucose and certain fats in the blood, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis.
To learn more, view the AIDSinfo infographic: What do my lab results mean?
How Does an HIV Baseline Evaluation Help Determine If a Person Is Ready to Start HIV Treatment?
Before starting treatment, people with HIV must be prepared to take HIV medicines every day for the rest of their lives. A baseline evaluation can help to identify any issues that can make it difficult to take HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed (called medication adherence).
Issues, such as lack of health insurance or alcohol or drug use that interferes with the activities of daily life, can make medication adherence difficult. Health care providers can recommend resources to help people deal with any issues before they start taking HIV medicines.
How Can I Find More Resources For a Person Who Has Just Tested HIV Positive?
The following are resources to share with someone with newly diagnosed HIV:
This Fact Sheet Is Based on Information From These Sources
[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by AIDSinfo on Jan. 18, 2019.]
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