Do doctor visits make you nervous? When you are sitting in the exam room with your health care provider, do you suddenly forget what you wanted to talk about? Try these 3 simple tips to prepare yourself and make the most out of each visit.
- Write down a list of questions or concerns. Sit down and think about what you have been experiencing. Anything unusual like rashes, headaches, bumps or sores that won't go away, painful areas? Use the list when visiting your health care provider.
- Try bringing a friend, significant other, or caregiver with you. Most clinics or doctor's offices will let you bring someone. Having this person there may help you stay relaxed. Also, he or she may remember to tell the doctor or nurse something that you might have forgotten.
- Be 100% honest. If questions come up about personal issues like sex, drug and alcohol use, or even how many doses of medication you miss, answer as truthfully as possible. Your health care provider is there to help you, not judge you, and needs to know the facts in order to make the right decisions for your care.
If you have been through most of the anti-HIV drugs out there and are running out of options because they no longer work against the virus, here are a few things to remember:
- Staying on a "failing" anti-HIV drug combination (one where your viral load is detectable) may still have a benefit. For one, the drugs force the virus to change itself ("mutate") in order to keep reproducing. The mutated form is not the same as the normal, naturally occurring virus and may not reproduce as well. Also, staying on your meds may help preserve T cells longer.
- If you are getting a genetic resistance test (to see what mutations your virus has against HIV meds), make sure you are on your meds when the test is done. If you stop meds, the virus changes back to normal and the test will not show many of the mutations!
- When you are going to start a new drug combination, try to hold out until at least 2 new drugs that you have never been on before are available. Drugs that are remade into simpler versions do not count. Be sure to check with your doctor about compassionate access programs for drugs that are being developed.
Always get health care from a provider who specializes in HIV/AIDS care. This means that he or she treats many patients with HIV. The longer the experience and the more patients treated, the better. Research shows that patients survive longer if their health care providers are experienced in HIV medicine. HIV specialists can be in private practice or in public clinics. In fact, some public clinics (like Houston's Thomas Street Clinic) specialize in treating people with HIV.
Some medical groups are working to have HIV become an official medical specialty. Both the American Academy of HIV Medicine (www.aahivm.org) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (www.idsociety.org/HIV/toc.htm) have begun programs that give special certification to physicians and other medical professionals who treat HIV.
Back to the HIV Treatment ALERTS! April 2002 contents page.