Sometimes getting other people’s recommendations is the best way to find someone you’ll like. Ask for referrals from your local HIV resource center, your current general practitioner, or other HIV-positive people you know. Using the dating analogy, remember you aren’t looking for a one-night stand; you’re seeking a long-term partnership, so anyone who can be vouched for is worth consideration.
The American Academy of HIV Medicine and the HIV Medicine Association 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 person to handle most of your HIV-related needs, but AAHIVM will also match you with doctors who focus on specialized HIV care in areas such as nutrition, dental services, or access to clinical trials.
Scan the Ratings
After you find a couple of promising doctors in your area, you may want to check reviews on websites RateMDs, ZocDoc, HealthGrades, or Angie’s List for any red flags. More information on a particular doctor you are interested in may be available through your insurance provider. And if you want to be really investigative, the Federation of State Medical Boards can give you a report on any physician’s license, medical education, any sanctions or disciplines, and location history.
Talk It Out
Don’t hesitate to consult with your prospective doctor before you dive into his or her client pool. Good doctors will make time to speak with you before it’s time to 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 have him or her take the wheel? Now’s the time to bring up anything that might be contentious. If you use marijuana daily, for instance, find out how the doc feels about drug use so you don’t ever feel like you have to hide anything from your doctor.
Pass It On
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 common sticking points, so you should feel comfortable talking about your sexual history, sleep patterns, and substance use. Always remember, he or she is a doctor, not your parents, and you pay him or her for services, so tell the truth and get your money’s worth in a lifetime of great care.