a doctor explains how to read test results to an HIV patient

Ask Your HIV Specialists the Following Questions

Ask your HIV specialists the following key questions in order to engage in meaningful discussions related to your HIV well care! When you think about quality HIV care and treatment, there are several professionals (medical, social, and behavioral health) that play a major role in the quality and efficacy of your overall health and HIV specialty care.

5 questions to ask your healthcare provider

1. Ask your HIV specialist to share with you, their story. I know some people may be surprised by this line of questioning. Basically asking, "Who are you?" Every doctor is different. No two MDs are alike! They are real people, at the end of the day. By asking your doctor to share their story, you humanize them and you learn more about their background, training, and passion. Finding a good doctor is as much about skills as chemistry. Their background will tell you more about who they are and how they approach medical care. Also, share your story! Your doctor can pick up clues about how to treat you, based on your story. Lastly, if you two gel, your care experience will be drastically different than if you two don’t get to know each other!

2. Ask your HIV specialist about reading your lab work. Lab work is critical to treating HIV effectively. Lab work provides vital details about your overall health, immune function, and drug monitoring. Many of the words, jargon, acronyms, and numbers in your lab report can be confusing to some medical professionals and laypeople.

3. Ask your HIV specialist to break it down for you in terms you understand! Maintaining a good relationship and communication with your doctor is key to becoming undetectable and adhering to your HIV medication regimen.

4. Ask your HIV specialist to discuss any changes to your health, how you feel and any and all side effects that you experience during your HIV treatment journey.

  • First, it’s important to listen to your body every day!
  • Second, keep a journal during the beginning stages of any new ART regimen or changes in doses or medication.
  • Third, bring your journal with you to each doctor’s visit and discuss key topics during each doctor’s visits.

This information can provide critical clues about any changes to your health, as reference points for you and your provider!

5. Ask your HIV specialist to discuss your sexual health. Some physicians aren’t comfortable discussing sex and sexuality, let’s be real! A good clinician can discuss any topic, especially sexual health. Make sure your HIV specialist is willing and capable of promoting your sexual health by including sexual health screenings, based on your sexual practices and experiences.

Ask about ways to reduce yours and your partner's sexual risk! Hopefully, your physician promotes U = U, PrEP for your regular partners, and usage of condoms and lube with random partners as some basic HIV transmission prevention strategies! See my U = U! article for more information!

Open communication with your healthcare provider

Please ask your HIV specialist to be real with you! Ask your doctor to be down to earth, if that’s your preference or more formal if that works better for you! Your physician can usually code switch depending on your health literacy levels. Establish healthy lines of communication with your HIV specialist in order to improve the HIV care you receive!

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