HIV is a lifelong condition, but you won’t manage it alone. Along the way, you’ll have a team of doctors and other health experts who’ll work with you -- and together -- to manage your care.
Some providers who can help you include:
Primary HIV health care provider
Your primary HIV health care provider heads up your health care team. This might be an MD, DO, nurse practitioner, or an infectious diseases doctor. They’ll prescribe HIV medicines, keep tabs on your overall health, and refer you to other doctors as you need them. You can choose a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or OB/GYN, but the more experience they’ve had with HIV patients, the more comfortable you may feel with your care. Don’t feel you have to find the perfect doctor -- you can always switch.
Infectious disease (ID) specialist
HIV weakens your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. If your primary doctor thinks that you have an infection of some kind, they can refer you to an ID specialist. Because they’ve had intense training in all kinds of infections, ID specialists can run tests, make a diagnosis, and choose the best way to treat you.
HIV can affect the organs and glands that help you have a baby. An OB/GYN can diagnose and treat issues that may pop up, like a vaginal infection or changes to your period. They can also screen you for more severe conditions, like cervical cancer, that women with HIV are at higher risk for. Whether you decide to start a family or want to make sure you don’t get pregnant, your OB/GYN can offer counseling and support.
If possible, find an OB/GYN who has expertise in HIV and AIDS. On the whole, women who see OB/GYNs with more experience in HIV care tend to do better than those who see a provider who only has limited HIV care experience.
If you have questions about a prescribed drug or over-the-counter medicine, your pharmacist can answer them. They can also do some health screenings and give you any vaccines that you need.
Eating well is good for your immune system and weight. It can also make it easier for your body to absorb the HIV medicines you take. A nutrition expert can help you choose healthy foods, suggest recipes to try, and help you plan meals.
HIV puts you at risk of oral health problems that range from canker sores and a dry mouth to cavities and different infections. A dentist can spot and treat these problems. They can also give you tips on how to best care for your teeth and gums.
Some people on your team can help you manage your HIV on a daily basis:
- A case manager figures out the types of services you need and connects you to them.
- A social worker can provide counseling for issues like anxiety or substance abuse.
- A patient navigator helps you make sense of, and get what you need from, your health plan. Nurses who help with care coordination may also play this role.
It’s common to have bone and joint pain when you have HIV. A physical therapist can come up with exercises that make you feel more comfortable and improve how well you can move. They can also help you see how regular activity can make you feel better and more in control of your health.
Fear, shock, depression, anxiety, and anger are all normal feelings you can have after finding out that you have HIV. A counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you talk about your feelings and find better ways to cope.