Once you receive a diagnosis of HIV, the most important next step is to get into medical care. Getting into medical care and staying on treatment will help you manage your HIV effectively and make decisions that can keep you healthy for many years.
If you received your diagnosis in a health care provider’s office or a non-clinical setting (health fair, community organization, or testing event), you have probably received a lot of information about HIV, its treatment, and how to stay healthy. Give yourself time to absorb the information and get into care and on treatment right away. If you do not have much information, this website is a good place to begin to familiarize yourself with HIV.
If you received a diagnosis by taking an HIV test at home, it is important that you take the next steps to make make sure the result is correct. Both manufacturers provide confidential counseling and will help you with getting the follow-up test done.
How Do You Find an HIV Care Provider?
If you have a primary health care provider (someone who manages your regular medical care and annual tests), that person may have the medical knowledge to treat your HIV. If not, he or she can refer you to a health care provider who is a specialist in providing HIV care and treatment.
Here are some other services to help you locate HIV providers and services near you:
- HIV.gov’s HIV Testing Sites and Care Services Locator can help you find HIV-related services across the United States, including HIV medical care, HIV testing, housing assistance, and substance abuse and mental health services (from HIV.gov).
- State HIV/AIDS toll-free hotlines are available to help you connect with agencies that can help determine what services you are eligible for and help you get them (from the Health Resources and Services Administration).
- The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Medical Care Provider Locator can help you find medical providers who can help people living with HIV/AIDS access the medical care they need but can’t afford (from the Health Resources and Services Administration).
- This directory of credentialed HIV care specialists and members of the American Academy of HIV Medicine can help you access HIV practitioners across the country (from the American Academy of HIV Medicine).
It is important that you start medical care and begin HIV treatment as soon as possible after you are diagnosed with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they are. Starting ART slows the progression of HIV and helps protect your immune system. ART is taken consistently and correctly, it can keep you healthy for many years and greatly reduces your chance of transmitting HIV to sex partners.
Most people living with HIV who do not seek medical care eventually receive an AIDS diagnosis. This happens because, if left untreated, HIV will attack the immune system and allow different types of life-threatening infections and cancers to develop. A cure for HIV does not yet exist, but ART can dramatically prolong the lives of many people living with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others.