You will need to find a doctor who's able and willing to treat HIV, ideally one who already has experience with HIV and whose style works for you. Depending on how and where you get health care, you may not have many choices.
Experienced HIV doctors, due to the number of patients they see, usually keep up with recent developments in treating HIV. They also have a better sense of preventive health care. If you can, it's also important to find other doctors like gynecologists, eye doctors and dentists who have HIV experience.
Doctors with less or no HIV experience may need to consult resources that can help them provide the best medical care for you. This will take time, but resources are available that can help you and your doctor make informed decisions.
The WarmLine (National HIV Telephone Consultation Service) is staffed by experienced doctors and provides expert clinical advice to other medical professionals. It's available MondayFriday, 8am8pm, Eastern Time. (See number below.)
Many areas of the country have regional AIDS Education Training Centers that provide education programs for health providers who treat people with HIV.
A lot of attention is put into making decisions about when to start and what to choose. But it's also important to consider your future over the next few years or even decades.
It's not uncommon for people to run out of one or more of their meds on occasion, but having a steady supply should be a priority. It can help you live your life more fully rather than waiting until the last moment to get a prescription filled. Keeping a steady supply requires you to work closely with your doctor, pharmacist and possibly insurance administrators.
Certainly, the best way to avoid emergencies is by planning ahead for weekends, vacations, moves or other times when your regular routine is disrupted. But even with good planning, meds get lost or people just forget to take them. What will you do to make sure you get your next dose? Auto-refills or mail order refills can help with this.
First, work with your doctor to establish about a week's overlap so you always have seven days (or more) of backup in case of emergency. If you go on an extended vacation, make sure you have enough meds for the time before you leave, when you're away and the first week after you get back. Refresh your emergency supply to avoid expired pill.
It's also important to consider people you would call in case of an emergency, and keep those numbers with you. Who would you call on a weekday or weekend? Would your insurance cover a visit to an ER to get meds?
If you rely upon a public program, make sure you know when you need to re-apply and if you have out-of-pocket costs. Be sure to keep up with enrollment requirements of your insurance and any premiums or out-of-pocket expenses. Make sure you read, act on and file papers sent to you by these programs.
Having people around you -- friends, family, support group members, neighbors or medical providers -- helps support your emotional and practical needs. Friends could remind you to take your meds. If you know other HIV-positive people, you can help each other by talking about how to handle certain problems related to HIV.
Because your life and health change over time, your regimen may need to as well. What worked when you started treatment may not be the best fit a few years later. So it's important to revisit your treatment from time to time and ask yourself how you're doing. Does it still fit your medical needs and lifestyle? Do you want to try something else? In the end, you may not need to change anything, but at least you considered it as part of maintaining your health and quality of life.
Keeping a diary is not for everyone, but it may be useful to remember details that might help you manage certain aspects of HIV treatment or help you explain certain issues to your doctor. You may find different connections; for example, between certain types of stress you experience and side effects. Include whatever is important to you: when you took your meds, reason for missed doses, how you felt, etc.
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