Seeing Your Health Care Provider
Managing Your HIV Medical Appointments
With treatment, HIV is a manageable chronic condition. Part of staying healthy with HIV is seeing a health care provider regularly so that they can track your progress and make sure your treatment is working. That means managing your HIV medical appointments.
Some people with HIV go to an HIV clinic for their medical appointments; others go to a community health center, a Veterans Affairs clinic, or a private medical provider’s office. In addition to seeing your primary HIV health care provider, during a visit you also may need to see a specialist or access the special skills of a nurse, pharmacist, nutritionist, social worker, case manager, or patient navigator, depending on your needs. Preparing a plan can help make this easier.
Frequency of Appointments
Current HIV treatment guidelines recommend that most people with HIV see their health care provider for lab tests every 6 months. Some people may see their provider more frequently, especially during the first two years of treatment or if their HIV viral load is high or detectable. People with HIV who take HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed and have an undetectable viral load at every test for more than two years usually only need to have their lab tests checked twice a year. An undetectable viral load is a level of HIV in your blood so low that a standard lab test can’t detect it.
People with HIV who take HIV medicine exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can stay healthy and will not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
What About Telehealth?
Some HIV clinics and providers offer telehealth appointments, which are great way to get the health care you need while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic or at other times when in-person appointments may not be possible or convenient. Telehealth is the use of technologies to receive care when you and your provider aren’t in the same place at the same time. Through telehealth, you may be able to talk to your doctor over the phone, by videoconferencing, through chat messaging, or through other apps.
Telehealth isn’t a perfect fit for everyone and there may be times when your provider may still have you come in for an in-patient visit or go to a lab for necessary lab tests. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of telehealth with your provider and what options are available to you. Learn more about telehealth.
Before Your Visit
Whether you are meeting with your provider in person or via telehealth, these tips can help you better prepare for your visits:
- Start with a list or a notebook. Write down any questions you have about HIV or your treatment before you go. (The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a useful list of sample questions.)
- Make a list of any symptoms or problems you are having. These may include difficulties taking your HIV medications, sleeping issues, feelings of sadness or anxiety, or issues with intimacy.
- Bring a list of your medications (or the medications themselves).