Research has proven that people diagnosed with HIV who engage in medical care as soon as possible following their diagnosis, are prescribed an antiretroviral therapy (ARVs), are consistently taking their ARVs, and who are retained in care are the most likely to achieve viral suppression and the most likely to remain virally suppressed.
A person who quickly becomes virally suppressed - and remains virally suppressed - can have a long, healthy lifespan that is within two years of the expected lifespan of a person who is not living with HIV.
Have you heard about U=U? "People who take [antiretroviral therapy (ART)] daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (September, 2017)
GCCHC provides comprehensive, compassionate care for our patients living with HIV. Our medical evaluation and clinical care includes CD4 cell monitoring; viral load and resistance testing; antiretroviral therapy; prophylaxis and treatment of opportunistic infections, malignancies and other related conditions; routine immunizations; clinical preventive services; prevention of perinatal transmission; and patient education, including linkage to prevention services.
If you'd like to make an appointment in our HIV Health clinic, please give us a call at (318) 325-1092, then follow the voice prompts to make an appointment. Please be sure to let them know you are seeking HIV-related care so they can set you up with our intake process to ensure you are receiving all the benefits available to you, and that the cost of HIV care is not burdensome to you.
Learning that you are living with HIV can be overwhelming. It's important to know that people living with HIV can lead long, productive, happy lives. Advancements in treating HIV have come a long way in recent years making HIV disease much more manageable than ever before.
The key to living healthy and well is to begin medical care - and stay in care. When you stay in care you improve your health and quality of life. You get all the benefits that research, medicine, and healthcare can offer. When you stay in care, you will feel better, do more, and live longer. Stay in care by seeing your doctor on a regular basis, year-after-year-after-year.
Don't fool yourself by thinking "Why should I see a doctor? I feel fine." Often individuals with HIV do feel fine. This is especially true in the early stages of infection. But by getting into care and staying in care, you will increase your ability to keep feeling fine!
The steps below will help guide you in what needs to be done now that you know your status.
Often one of the first things individuals finding out their status want to know is how do I notify my partner(s)? Some people feel comfortable with notifying their partner(s) themselves, while others don't. This is understandable. However, if we are to slow the spread of HIV, individuals who might have either transmitted the virus unknowingly or been exposed, need to be tested. Partner notification services is a set of free, confidential services available to people living with HIV and their partners to reduce the spread of HIV in our community. Partner notification services allow people living with HIV to ensure their partners have the opportunity to get tested for HIV without having to worry about disclosure.
Partner services are available through The Louisiana Department of Public Health or through GCCHC.
The sooner you get into medical care, the better your chances of living a full, long life. You should visit a medical provider even if you don't feel sick, as HIV can compromise your health without causing any symptoms until you become very sick.
The most important thing to consider when looking for medical care is how knowledgeable the medical provider is with the treatment of HIV. This might be your own personal provider or you may need to seek care elsewhere. There are many locations around the state of Louisiana that have these services and providers available, including GCCHC's own in-house clinic for HIV Health.
Regardless of whether you have health insurance or not, there are excellent resources for medical care in Northeast Louisiana for people living with HIV. Staff at GCCHC will assist you with linking you into care and helping answer any questions you might have about insurance, free care, medications, co-pays and deductibles.
High-quality medical care is available to you, regardless of your financial situation.
Before your first appointment, write down all of the questions you have about HIV. It's very important that you take an active role in your care. Be open and honest during every appointment. Make sure you ask all the questions you have and if there is something you don't understand, ask for clarity.
Your first appointment may be longer than other medical visits you've had. There will be paperwork to fill out. Your provider may want to complete a full physical exam and will take samples of your blood to check your immune system and viral load (the amount of HIV in your bloodstream). You may also need to complete other lab tests. Once you've met with your provider and completed all of the lab tests, you'll be asked to make a follow up appointment for a few weeks later to discuss the results of your lab tests and develop a treatment plan. Your provider may want you to begin some treatments and medications, even if you don't have any symptoms. They may also want to begin to see you on a regular basis.
Your provider may give you prescriptions for medications. If you're worried about how much the medications will cost, don't be embarrassed - share your concerns. There may be lower-priced alternative medications available or assistance programs designed to help individuals with their medication costs.
Stay in care by visiting your medical provider regularly, and by taking your medications on time, every time. By doing so, you'll reduce the chances of getting sick, and also decrease the risk that you'll pass HIV on to others.
Sometimes, life can get in the way of staying in care. Your job may require you to work more, or you might have to care for someone who is sick. Maybe you're dealing with relationship issues. You may have substance use challenges, or mental health issues. Perhaps you simply want to give yourself a "vacation" from living with HIV and stop taking your medications for a while.
It's your responsibility to remain in care - but you don't have to do it alone! If issues arise that begin to affect how you manage your health, talk to your medical provider or case manager. Be open and honest about your concerns, so that your provider can share solutions that are right for your situation. Friends/family and/or even a case manager can also support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Medical evaluation and clinical care includes CD4 cell monitoring, viral load and resistance testing, antiretroviral therapy, prophylaxis and treatment of opportunistic infections, malignancies and other related conditions, routine immunizations, clinical preventive services, prevention of perinatal transmission, and patient education, including linkage to prevention services.
GCCHC’s highly-trained medical professionals provide the most current treatments in accordance with the latest U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines in a culturally competent and affirming environment.