How to Find the Right Doctor if You're HIV-Positive

Finding the right physician now will affect your health for years to come. Here’s how to do it.

BY Michelle Garcia

October 29 2013 12:04 PM ET UPDATED: October 29 2013 12:04 PM ET

For some people, establishing a solid relationship with the right doctor can be as important as keeping up a relationship with a good friend. For others, it’s about finding the right coach to get you through the best and worst situations, or just someone you see a couple of times a year to make sure your body is in good working order. In any case, finding a good doctor and working with him or her are important tasks for HIVers. Whether you are seeking a general practitioner who is especially experienced in HIV care or an HIV specialist to be a part of your medical team, there are several steps you can take to find the right fit.

Ask Around
Ask for referrals from your local HIV resource center, your current general practitioner, or other HIV-positive people you know.

Get Online
The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM.org) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA.org) both offer a database of doctors and medical services nationwide, allowing you to search for an HIV-knowledgeable doctor in your hometown. Both websites can help you find the right general practitioner, but AAHIVM will also match you doctors who focus on specialized HIV care in areas including nutrition therapy, dental care, or access to clinical trials.

Check The Ratings
After you find a couple of promising doctors in your area, you may want to check reviews on ZocDoc.com, RateMDs.com, HealthGrades, or Angie’s List for any red flags. More information on a particular doctor you are interested in may be available to you through your insurance provider. And if you want to be really investigative, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB.org) can give you a report on any physician’s licenses, medical education, any sanctions or disciplines, and location history.

Talk To Her First
Don’t hesitate to consult with your prospective doctor before you dive into his or her client pool. Many doctors will make time to speak with you before you put on the examination gown. Find out if you have a compatible philosophy about your HIV treatment: Do you want cutting-edge methods or consistent, conservative care? Do you like to supplement your health care with alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture? Would you rather collaborate on your treatment plan with your doctor, or would you prefer him or her to take the wheel?

Pass The Info Along
When you’re ready to become a patient, make sure your new doctor has as much of your medical history as possible to determine the right care plan. Transferring medical records is often as easy as calling your previous medical provider. When you talk to your doctor, try to be as honest as possible. At this point, you probably already know their philosophy on certain things, so you should feel comfortable talking about your sexual history, sleep patterns, and substance use.

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