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Your HIV clinic

doctor meets patient in hallway

Most people get their HIV treatment and care from an outpatient specialist HIV clinic. These are usually based in hospitals. Check-ups usually take place every three to six months.

What happens at my HIV clinic?

You'll have regular appointments at your HIV clinic - probably around two to four times a year - to make sure your treatment is working properly and that you're well.

As well as seeing your doctor, you'll have regular blood tests: two very important ones will be your CD4 count and viral load which together indicate how strong your immune system is.

Blood tests are vital for keeping an eye on your health and if you have them done a few weeks before your appointment, the results will be ready when you see the doctor. You might sometimes have your urine tested to check the health of your kidneys, for example, or as part of testing for diabetes.

The frequency of your blood (and other) tests, and appointments, will depend on a range of factors including how recently you were diagnosed or started treatment, whether you have been unwell, or are pregnant, or using Treatment as Prevention (TaSP). This will all be explained to you.

You'll also have other tests at different times to monitor your health and see how well your treatment is working.

NAM has a very useful guide to the different types of tests you may have at your clinic.


Your HIV specialist doctor

You can expect your doctor to explain things clearly to you, give you a range of options, offer you the best available treatments, pay attention to your concerns and respect your confidentiality.

In return, it will help your doctor if you ask questions until you understand, tell them about your preferences, and talk about any health problems or difficulties taking medicines that you have. Before your appointment, you might find it helpful to make a list of the issues and questions you want to discuss, so that you don’t forget anything.


Other specialists at your HIV clinic

Apart from doctors, HIV clinics may have a range of health professionals to help you:

  • Staff nurses do most of the routine examinations and tests, and will need to ask you questions about your health.
  • Nurse specialists have more in-depth knowledge. At some clinics, you might have your check-up with a nurse specialist, rather than a doctor.
  • Pharmacists give you your medicine and can advise you about dealing with any difficulties you have taking them.
  • Dieticians can give you advice about food and nutrition. For example they can help if you want to lose weight, if diarrhoea or nausea makes it difficult to eat properly, or if you have to take your treatment with certain types of food.
  • Health advisers can give you advice about protected sex and sexual problems.
  • ‘Emergency’ or ‘walk-in’ doctors may be available if you have a problem between check-ups and need to see someone quickly.

Looking after your mental health

Your mental health and wellbeing are as important as your physical health. Talking to staff at your clinic about how you feel about your health and treatment, and other aspects of living with HIV can be just as important as telling them about symptoms or side effects. They can often help, or refer you to other services that can.


More help with your healthcare:

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 26/10/2017 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 26/10/2020

Content Author: R. Pebody (NAM)

Current Owner: Kerri Virani

More information:

British HIV Association guidelines for the routine investigation and monitoring of adult HIV-1-positive individuals 2016
Brian Angus, Gary Brook, Funmi Awosusi, Gary Barker, Marta Boffito, Satyajit Das, Lucy Dorrell, Esther Dixon-Williams, Charlotte Hall, Bridie Howe, Sebastian Kalwij, Nashaba Matin, Eleni Nastouli, Frank Post, MelindaTenant-Flowers, Erasmus Smit, Dan Wheals
2016

Regular clinic appointments
Roger Pebody
NAM Aidsmap
February 2017

CD4, Viral Load and other tests
Roger Pebody
NAM Aidsmap
2017

The basics – health checks
NAM Aidsmap
January 2017

BHIVA Standards of care for people living with HIV, 2013