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Newly Diagnosed With HIV

Decide whether to start treatment. If so, choose a treatment that fits your life. If you have any question about which treatment to take, get a second opinion.

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The decision whether to start treatment

Just because you are HIV positive, does not automatically mean you should start treatment. Discuss whether to start treatment with your HIV specialist.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends treatment (antiretroviral therapy) should be started for the following patients:

  • Treatment (antiretroviral therapy) should be started for patients with a history of an AIDS-defining illness or who have a count of less than 350 CD4 T cells. (There are circumstances where it recommends treatment for people with more than 350 CD4 T cells).
  • Pregnant women
  • People with HIV-associated nephropathy
  • Patients co-infected with HBV when treatment is indicated.

To learn more about the DHHS recommendations, see: offsite link.

What treatment to take

Treatment for HIV disease is by means of a variety of drugs.

These days, there is generally more than one drug that can fit a particular situation. Look for a drug that not only works on the HIV, but also fits your lifestyle. For instance, the number of times the drug has to be taken, and in what circumstances.

To help decide which is the best drug for you and your lifestyle, Survivorship A to Z has a tool which helps compare treatments according to your personal preferences. See: Choosing A Treatment.

Think about so called "alternative" therapies such as massage and aromatherapy as complementary to Western style medicine instead of "either/or."

NOTE: Be sure to tell your doctor about every other prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take. Some may have a negative interaction with certain HIV drugs. To help keep track of your drugs, we provide a List Of Medications.

Second Opinions

It never hurts to get a second opinion, particularly if you have a rare condition or an unusual situation. Treatment is not generally one size fits all. Second opinions have become so standard that doctors are not offended when patients ask for second opinions. (If a doctor objects to your getting a second opinion, it is a valid reason to change doctors). 
Insurance companies generally pay for second and even third opinions. Check with your insurer before getting the opinion so you will know how much the opinion will cost. If you have to pay, you can negotiate the fee and a payment schedule.) 

Ideally the second opinion will come from a doctor experienced with your condition who is not in any way related to the doctor who gave you the first opinion. 

If you have difficulty getting the appointment with another doctor, ask your doctor's office to help. 

If the two opinions differ, don't accept the second opinion just because it is the last one you received. Perhaps the two doctors can come up with a joint recommendation if they talk. Otherwise, continue to get opinions and do research until you are comfortable making a decision. 

Don't let a search for certainty provide a reason for stalling making a decision. 

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