Communicate Your HIV Emotional Story

In my therapy practice, where I have worked with people who are living with HIV, I have been shocked at how many times I have had to validate my client's right to find a doctor who will listen. Many of these clients are long time survivors. They have been through many health scares. They have taken many medications, and dealt with various side effects. Many times, these clients have found a medication combination that will work. This leaves them to feeling afraid of changing their medication regime.

Many of these clients are reminded that they don't need the combination of medications that once sustained them. However, they remain reluctact to change. After doctor's appointments, they are frustrated that their physician won't listen to their fear. These people are educated by their physicians, but education is not the only thing that they need.

"Survival" Means Trauma

For people who survived the '90s, and even the '80s with HIV, you have been through a lot. Stigma, and lacking acceptance, while having peers die is a traumatic experience. This is to be respected by any physician or therapist who you may see. If you ever feel like this is something that isn't validated or respected, it's a good idea to find someone who does respect this part of your story and life.

Living with uncertainty takes it toll too. So if you found a combination of medications that has worked, then you're understandably going to be reluctant in changing this.

Education is important. There might be medications that can work better. However, you're not the only one who needs to understand things about your diagnosis. Your doctor needs to know this as well. If you feel like your doctor isn't listening to you, or your doctor isn't taking time to answer your questions, then it is time to consider another physician.

Managing your own care

Doctors are busy. It is your responsibility to communicate to your physician. However, it's also your doctor's job to listen. Our medican system is quickly moving towards fast-paced medical care. It is important that you know what you need. Hold your story with honor, and communicate what you're needing from your doctor. If fast-paced care is enough for you to feel secure, there isn't anything inheritently wrong with this. If you need more time, this is fine to have as well.

When looking for a new doctor, ask around. I know physicians in my community who spend time with their clients. People will be open about this information, because they also recognize it as important.

Help with the emotional experience

As a sex therapist, who is also an openly gay therapist, I work with many clients who are diagnosed with, have lived with, and who have survived an HIV diagnosis. In this capacity, I realize the importance of addressing your emotional experience. It's important that your physician listen to you, but you might also need help outside of what your doctor can provide. There's no way to eliminate the existance of your awareness of your diagnosis. Yet, you can learn to live with it in a more settled, peaceful way.


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