How to Select the Right HIV Doctor

Tips and Advice to Help Narrow Your Search for Specialist Care

Doctor talking to patient
Doctor talking to patient. Getty Images/Portra Images/Taxi

Finding a doctor is the first and most important step you will take after being diagnosed with HIV. Despite ever simpler drug regimens, HIV remains a dynamic disease that requires specially trained physicians able to deliver the high levels of care specific to your health needs.

So what are the qualities of a good HIV doctor? Are there ways to ascertain this or tools you can use to narrow the search?

Questions You Should Always Ask

When meeting with a doctor for the time, you should take the opportunity to ask all the questions that need to be asked. Among them:

  • How large is your HIV practice?
  • Does HIV represent the focus of the work you do?
  • What services does your clinic offer?
  • How do you like working with patients? Do you welcome input and discussion?
  • How far in advance do I need to make an appointment?
  • Will I see you every visit, even routine follow-ups? Or just an assistant?
  • How do I get my routine blood results? Do I call or, do you call me?
  • If I need to call you for a genuine medical emergency, what are the procedures?
  • Do you accept Medicaid or Medicare?

Understand Your Rights As a Patient

Selecting the best doctor requires you to understand what rights you are entitled to as a patient.  It starts by knowing the HIV Patient Bill of Rights, which outlines in 17 steps the kind of care and treatment you should receive as a person living with HIV:

The person with HIV has the right to considerate and respectful care regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender or payment source.

  1. The person with HIV has the right to, and is encouraged to, obtain current and understandable information concerning diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
  1. The person with HIV has the right to know the identity of the physician, nurses and others involved in his/her care, including those who are students, residents or other trainees.
  2. The person with HIV has the right to work with the physician or nurse in establishing their plan of care, including the refusal of a recommended treatment, without the fear of reprisal or discrimination.
  3. The person living with HIV has the right to privacy.
  4. The person living with HIV has the right to expect that all records and communication are treated as confidential except in the case of abuse.
  5. The person living with HIV has the right to review his/her own medical records and request copies of them.
  6. The person living with HIV has the right to expect that an advance directive (such as a living will, healthcare power of attorney) will be honored by the medical staff.)
  7. The person living with HIV has the right to receive timely notice and explanation of changes in fees or billing practices.
  8. The person living with HIV has the right to expect an appropriate amount of time during their medical visit to discuss their concerns and questions.
  1. The person living with HIV has the right to expect that his/her medical caregivers will follow universal precautions.
  2. The person living with HIV has the right to voice his/her concerns, complaints and questions about care and expect a timely response.
  3. The person living with HIV has the right to expect that the medical caregivers will give the necessary health services to the best of their ability. If a transfer of care is recommended, he/she should be informed of the benefits and alternatives.
  4. The person living with HIV has the right to know the relationships his/her medical caregivers have with outside parties (such as health care providers or insurers) that may influence treatment and care.
  5. The person living with HIV has the right to be told of realistic care alternatives when the current treatment is no longer working.
  6. The person living with HIV has the right to expect reasonable assistance to overcome language (including limited English proficiency), cultural, physical or communication barriers.
  7. The person living with HIV has the right to avoid lengthy delays in seeing medical providers; when delays occur, he/she should expect an explanation of why they occurred and, if appropriate, an apology.

Source:

Wilder, T. "A Guide to Getting Good HIV/AIDS Medical Care." Survival News. July 1, 2000:1-3.

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