Finding an HIV/AIDS Doctor
Finding the right HIV/ AIDS doctor for you is one of the most important health care decisions you will make. This person will work closely with you, guiding you through many treatment decisions. Although it's important to seek care as soon as possible, don't rush into making a choice. Here are some things to consider.
What to Consider When Choosing an HIV/AIDS Doctor
The HIV/AIDS doctor you choose should be knowledgeable about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and have experience treating patients with HIV and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). You'll also want to find a person with whom you feel at ease and can talk comfortably -- and one who shares your basic philosophy about health care. Don't downplay the importance of this. How you feel about your doctor's personality, approach, and responsiveness may greatly affect your feelings about treatment.
You may want to interview several doctors before deciding on one. Consider factors such as these:
- Do you want a doctor who will allow you to take an active part in decision-making? Or do you prefer a more traditional doctor-patient relationship, where the doctor takes the lead?
- Do you want a doctor who is aggressive about treatment -- encouraging you to try new drugs or participate in research trials?
- Are you interested in trying complementary care, such as homeopathy or vitamin therapies? If so, will the doctor support this approach?
Questions to Ask Potential HIV/AIDS Doctors
- Are you board certified in internal medicine, infectious diseases, HIV medicine, or a related specialty?
- How many patients have you treated with HIV or AIDS?
- What is the average wait time for appointments? How long does it usually take for you to return phone calls?
- Do you have a solid referral base of specialists?
- Do you accept delayed payment from insurance companies or are payments required up front?
- Do you accept Medicaid?
How to Find an HIV/AIDS Doctor
If you already have a primary care physician with whom you feel comfortable, find out if this person also has the skills and experience to be your HIV/AIDS doctor. If not, they can refer you to a specialist. If you need to find a new HIV/AIDS doctor, and don't know where to begin, here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Ask a trusted friend to recommend a few doctors.
- Contact a local HIV/AIDS organization for the names of several doctors.
- Search online for HIV/AIDS doctors. Go to the HIV Medicine Association web site at www.idsociety.org. Pull down the "Resources" menu and click on HIV Provider Listing to look for an AIDS doctor near you.
- Ask for a referral to a doctor with AIDS experience if you belong to an HMO.
Establishing a Relationship With Your HIV/AIDS Doctor
You can do a great deal to build a good relationship with your HIV/AIDS doctor. One of the most important steps is keeping the lines of communication open. As you launch your relationship:
- Share your views. For example, let your doctor know if something isn't working well for you. At the same time, respect your doctor's concerns and knowledge, even if you don't agree.
Come to doctor visits well-prepared. Take the time to become educated, which you can start to do from the comfort of your home -- through web sites, hotlines, and community organizations. Also, prepare by writing down questions, symptoms, side effects, and any changes in your medications, including complementary therapies. Share this information at the beginning of your visits.