for Veterans and the Public
Work with your provider
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. If ignored, it can lead to illness and death. This is why it is so important to get medical care and start treatment as soon as you find out you have HIV. Please see a provider with experience treating people with HIV. Most VA providers who treat HIV are specialists in infectious disease. They work with a team of other health professionals who focus on HIV as a chronic, or lifelong, disease.
Treatments for HIV are not perfect (no medicine is), but are very tolerable and extremely effective for most people. They also work very well to minimize the chance that you may transmit HIV to sex partners (for pregnant women they also decrease the risk of infecting the baby). A health care provider can explain the best options for you.
Start with a list or notebook. Prepare for your appointment with your provider by writing down:
- any questions that you have (see our resource questions to ask your provider).
- any symptoms or problems you want to tell your provider about (including things like poor sleep, trouble concentrating, feeling tired)
- a list of the medications, herbs, and vitamins that you are taking, including a list of any HIV medications you have taken in the past and any HIV-related problems you had when taking them.
- upcoming tests or new information you've heard about
- changes in your living situation, such as a job change
That way you won't forget anything during the appointment.
You may want to ask a friend or family member to come with you and take notes. It can be difficult for you to take notes and pay attention to what your provider is saying at the same time.
Go over your lab results, and keep track of them. If your provider wants you to have some medical tests, make sure you understand what the test is for and what your provider will do with the results. If you don't understand what your provider is saying, ask them to explain it in everyday terms.
If you feel your provider has forgotten something during the appointment, it is better to ask about it than to leave wondering about it. It's your right to ask questions of your provider. You also have a legal right to see your medical records.
Be honest. Your provider isn't there to judge you, but to help make decisions based on your particular circumstances. Tell your provider about your sexual and drug use history. These behaviors can put you at risk of getting other sexually transmitted diseases. If your body is fighting off these other diseases, it will not be able to fight off HIV as effectively. You may get sicker, faster.
If you have sex with someone of the same sex or someone other than your spouse, it's OK to tell your provider. You cannot get kicked out of the VA or lose your benefits if you have sex with someone of your same sex, or someone other than your spouse.