PLANNING FOR YOUR HIV APPOINTMENTS

Once you've settled into your treatment regimen and are undetectable, you’ll likely only need to visit your clinic once or twice a year. Some of these appointments may even be online or over the phone.

Since many clinics only allow for 10–15 minutes per consultation, it is worth being prepared. Thinking about what you’d like to talk about and prioritising these discussion points before your consultation will help you get more from the time you have with your HIV healthcare team.

Remember, talk about what’s most important to you and don’t hold back. After all, these HIV appointments are about you.

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR APPOINTMENTS

Making sure you’re prepared is the best way to make the most of the time with your doctor. By taking a moment to think about how you have been feeling since your last consultation and making notes of the things you want to discuss, you can ensure you keep moving towards your treatment goals.

  • Plan and prioritise

    Before your HIV appointment, it’s a good idea to think about what you want to get out of it:

    • Write down any questions you want to ask
    • Make a note of any HIV symptoms or side effects you have been experiencing
    • Think about any other aspects of your physical and emotional health you want to mention e.g. recreational drug use, stress, anxiety
    • It is also useful to know the names of your medications, both antiretroviral (ARV) and any others


    If you are experiencing any symptoms, it could be helpful to do some research to see whether they could be related to your HIV medication. Here are some tips for researching your symptoms:2

    • Speak to other people living with HIV to see if they’ve experienced anything similar
    • If you have access to the internet, do a simple search to get some basic information using reputable sites such as HIV i-base , NAM Aidsmap or The Body


    Remember, these sites are not diagnostic tools, but they can provide you with useful information and further sources of support.

    Even though your doctor will do their best not to rush you, most appointments only last a short period of time, so you’ll need to prioritise.

    Focussing on one or two main issues per appointment is a good idea as this will give your doctor enough time to deal with them more effectively.

    Try not to wait until the end of the appointment to ask important questions. If you have something that is really concerning you, talk about it first.

  • Speak openly

    Talk to your doctor about what’s happening and how you feel in as much detail as possible. If it’s affecting you, it’s worth mentioning. This include things that are going on that aren’t related to your HIV care.

    If you’re experiencing side effects from your medication, speak to your healthcare team as soon as possible and be sure to tell them:

    • What symptoms did you experience? How often and how long did you experience them for?
    • How severe were they? For example, did they stop you from doing any everyday activities or make you miss an event?
    • Did you try anything to alleviate the symptoms? If so, did it work?

    Find out more about Managing side effects or download a side effects checklist to take along to your appointment.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions

    If you have any queries, no matter how big or small, you should ask your doctor. If you don’t understand what your doctor has said, it’s okay to ask them to repeat it or explain it in a different way. They often don’t realise when they start speaking in medical jargon!

    One tip for this is “playing back”. This is when you repeat what’s been said in your own words to make sure both you and your doctor are on the same page and fully understand each other.

  • Keep coming back

    If you’ve raised an issue with your HIV treatment and things don’t improve after your appointment, make another one and go back to the clinic.

    Remember:

    • If your symptoms persist, don’t ignore them
    • Your medication shouldn’t limit your quality of life so contact your clinic
    • Some side effects of ARVs may only be short-term1 but it’s important to still seek medical advice
    • If they persist, let your doctor know – you are not being a bother by telling them about your health

    Some side effects and symptoms are manageable, but you should never feel like you’re settling for less. By having ongoing and open conversations with your healthcare team, you can find new solutions together.

  • Feel supported

    While your HIV healthcare team will do everything they can, if you need extra support, there are lots of other ways to find it.

    Connect with other people living with HIV

    • Peer support can play a very important role in your journey with HIV.2 Connecting with a wide community made up of people living with HIV can be very empowering. You can get some great tips by connecting with support groups and speaking to other people living with HIV about how they manage their treatment.

    Bring a buddy

    • If you feel intimidated by your HCP or find it difficult asking questions, then take someone you trust along with you to your next appointment. Not only can it give your confidence a boost to have someone there with you, but they can also ask the questions you don’t feel comfortable asking yourself.

    Advice on call

NP-GBL-HVU-WCNT-210110 | August 2022

PREPARING FOR VIRTUAL CONSULTATIONS

COVID-19 changed HIV care overnight. Today, some elements of your HIV care may take place virtually via the phone or online consultations. Although at first glance, talking to your doctor over the phone may not seem as personal as visiting them in the clinic, it could better suit you and your lifestyle.

Even though you may not be going into a clinic to visit your doctor, it’s still important to be prepared so you can get the most out of your consultations.

Tom and Dr Laura Waters chat about their experiences and share some tips to help you navigate your virtual care and continue to thrive.

COVID-19 changed HIV care overnight. In a world of telephone and video consultations, new challenges and opportunities arise.

To learn more about virtual HIV care, watch our special Positively Thriving episode “Discussions on virtual care”. In this video, Tom and Dr Laura Waters chat in detail about what COVID-19 meant for people living with HIV and how they worked together to stay in control.

NP-GBL-HVU-WCNT-210111 | March 2022

Planning for your HIV appointments
Planning for your HIV appointments

What's next?

Understanding the different types of HIV medications available to you can make it easier to talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Different medicines can cause different side effects: short-term, longer term, drug-to-drug interactions. These may be the result of the drugs being used to treat HIV – not because you’re doing anything wrong.

There was a time when HIV care focused solely on suppressing the virus. As HIV care has evolved, ensuring a good quality of life for people living with HIV is now just as important as effective HIV treatment and care.

References:

  1. Montessori V, et al. CMAJ. 2004; 170:229–238.
  2. Bateganya M, et al. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015;68:S368–S374.

NP-GBL-HVU-WCNT-210109 | March 2022