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Talking to Your Doctor About AIDS

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors or experience with HIV and AIDS. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

To make it easier to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you if it makes you more comfortable. Sometimes it helps to have another person hear what is being said. They may think of questions to ask.
  • Write your questions ahead of time.
  • Write down the answers you get. Make sure you understand them. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions. Ask for where you can get more information. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About AIDS

  • How is my immune system functioning?
  • What is my viral load and CD4+ T cell count?
  • How quickly will my condition worsen?

About Your Risk of Developing AIDS

  • Based on my lifestyle, am I at risk for other infections besides HIV infection and AIDS?
  • Do I need to be tested for other infections?
  • What can I do to lessen my chance of progressing to AIDS?

About Treatment Options

  • What is my best treatment option?
  • What other options are there?
  • What are the risks and benefits associated with each treatment option?
  • What medicines are available to help me?
  • What are the benefits and side effects of these medicines?
  • When should I start taking them?
  • Will these medicines interact with other medicines, over the counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
  • How long will I have to take these medicines?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • What can I do to prevent other infections?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • What will I need to change in my daily routine?
  • How long can I expect to continue working at my present job? Or caring for myself?
  • Should I exercise?
    • What type of exercise is best?
    • How much should I be exercising?
    • How do I get started with an exercise program?
  • Are there dietary changes I should make? How do I go about it?
  • Should I stop drinking alcohol?
  • How can I find help to quit smoking?
  • What can I do to prevent complications?
  • How can I avoid giving this disease to someone I love? Or to other people?

About Outlook

  • What are my risks for developing complications?
  • Will I still be able to have children?
  • Will I put my future children at risk for this disease?
  • Will I be able to live a normal life?
  • What is the likelihood I will be totally disabled or need help with personal care?
  • Am I likely to die soon? Do I need to put my affairs in order?

Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

HIV basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated July 23, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Overview of HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 31, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 10/23/2020