Choosing a Doctor
This is an important decision facing you. Here are some things to think about as you make up your mind about who you want to guide your HIV treatment.
Finding a doctor who has experience treating people living with HIV is very important. Studies have shown that people with HIV who see doctors experienced in treating people with HIV are more likely to be long-term survivors than those with inexperienced doctors.
According to these studies, an HIV-experienced doctor is someone who has five or more people in their practice who are living with HIV, though in general, the more experience and patients the physician has, the better. Consider five a minimum. Experienced doctors will usually have more skill in prescribing and monitoring anti-HIV drugs wisely, and are also more likely to wisely prescribe preventative therapies.
In some cases, choosing a highly HIV-experienced doctor is not possible. This is especially true in rural settings where HIV-positive people may be more isolated than in major cities. This does not mean that one need receive less than optimal care.
Even in the most rural settings, there is usually at least one health care provider who has worked with HIV positive patients. Some experience is better than none. However, it may mean that the patient and doctor need to be more diligent in learning about HIV, keeping up to date on the latest in treatment information and finding appropriate resources. Developing an open and comfortable relationship will help this ongoing process.
Often, people living with HIV in such situations play an important role in keeping their doctors up to date by bringing them new information, reports from medical conferences and resources available from community advocacy groups. While doctors may sometimes at first be inclined to reject information from anyone other than doctors, they often get over this prejudice when they realize that, at least in HIV disease, community groups often have better access to information, and more time for reviewing it, than they do. Many physicians come to welcome the input their patients can bring them.
Finally, the general principal of choosing an HIV-experienced doctor applies to practitioners of alternative systems of healing as well, like traditional Chinese medicine, herbalists, acupuncturists and other holistic healers. If you have an interest in complementary or alternative therapies, the healthcare provider should have experience working with HIV positive people, not just experience with the therapies themselves.
Some herbs and supplements, for example, can affect the way commonly used anti-HIV drugs are absorbed in the body, so knowledge of both types of therapy is critical. A doctor or healing practitioner who keeps up to date on literature about new discoveries in our understanding of HIV disease and who has experience treating people living with HIV is an important partner in your healthcare.
Adapted from: www.projectinform.org