Although it's important to seek a doctor's care as soon as possible, don't rush into making a choice.
Of course, your HIV doctor should be knowledgeable about the virus and have experience treating people with HIV and AIDS. You should feel at ease and be able to talk comfortably with them. But what else do you need to think about?
You may want to interview several doctors before deciding on one. How you feel about your doctor's personality, approach, and responsiveness may influence what you do about your treatment.
Their Approach to Health Care
Find a person who shares your basic philosophy about health care. Don't downplay the importance of this.
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?
How aggressive do you want to be about treatment? Do you want someone who will encourage you to try new drugs or participate in research trials?
Are you interested in complementary care, such as homeopathy or vitamin therapies? Will the doctor support this?
Qualifications and Office Practice
Your doctor should be board certified in internal medicine (IM) with a subspecialty in infectious disease (ID). If they specialize in HIV, even better. Some doctors without all of these qualifications -- internists, family physicians, osteopaths -- do have experience treating people with HIV though. Ask how many patients with HIV or AIDS they’ve seen.
Find out what the average wait time for an appointments is, and how long it typically takes to return phone calls.
Do they regularly work with specialists they can refer you to when you need it?
Check which insurance they accept. Will they wait for payment from the insurance company, or will you have to pay up front? Do they take Medicaid?
Where to Look
Your primary care doctor may have the skills and experience to be your HIV doctor, too. If not, ask them to recommend a specialist.
You can also get suggestions from:
- A trusted friend or someone you know with HIV
- A local HIV/AIDS organization
- The American Academy of HIV Medicine website (www.aahivm.org)
- Your insurance company's provider list
Build a Good Relationship
One of the most important steps is to communicate and 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 prepared. Take the time to learn about HIV and AIDS through websites, hotlines, and community organizations. Also, get ready for your appointments by writing down questions, symptoms, side effects, and any changes in your medications, including any complementary treatments you started or want to try. Bring these up at the beginning of your visit.