Understanding HIV Care
September 4, 2018
Who Should Be on My Health Care Team?
Finding a health care team that is knowledgeable about HIV care is an important step in managing your care and treatment. Your HIV health care provider should lead your health care team. That person will help you determine which HIV medicines are best for you, prescribe antiretroviral therapy (ART), monitor your progress, and partner with you in managing your health. He or she can also help put you in touch with other types of providers who can address your needs. Your primary HIV health care provider may be a medical doctor (MD or DO), nurse practitioner (NP), or a physician assistant (PA).
In addition to your HIV health care provider, your health care team may include other health care providers, allied health care professionals, and social service providers who are experts in taking care of people with HIV. These professionals include:
How Can I Make the Most of My Medical Care?
HIV care and treatment is most successful when you actively take part. That means taking your HIV medications as prescribed, keeping your medical appointments, and communicating honestly with your health care provider. This can be achieved when you:
You can also view stories and testimonials on the CDC Act Against AIDS Campaign HIV Treatment Works website on how people with HIV are sticking to their care and treatment plans.
What Can I Expect During a Medical Visit?
During your medical visit your health care provider may:
Related: Living With HIV
What Are the Different Tests That Help Monitor My HIV?
In addition to other general health tests, your health care provider will use blood tests to monitor your HIV infection. These test results will also help your health care provider decide whether he or she should make changes to your treatment.
CD4 cells, also called T-cells, play an important role in your body's ability to fight infections. Your CD4 count is the number of CD4 cells you have in your blood. When you are living with HIV, the virus attacks and lowers the number of CD4 cells in your blood. This makes it difficult for your body to fight infections. Typically, your health care provider will check your CD4 count every 3 to 6 months.
Viral Load Test
Your viral load is the amount of HIV in your blood. When your viral load is high, you have more HIV in your body, and your immune system is not fighting HIV as well. Your health care provider will use a viral load test to determine your viral load.
You should have a viral load test every 3 to 6 months, before you start taking a new HIV medicine, and 2 to 8 weeks after starting or changing medicines.
[Note from TheBody: This article was created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who last updated it on Aug. 27, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
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