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HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV attacks the body’s immune system, which weakens its ability to fight off infections. If left untreated, a person is more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with a person who has the disease. It may also spread by sharing needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth. HIV/AIDS can be controlled by means of diet, exercise, and medication. See the NC Health Info page on HIV/AIDS for more information.
There are several different kinds of medical providers that can help you manage HIV/AIDS. These providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized care plan. You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find a HIV/AIDS care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to fina d a provider that accepts Medicare. Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, or a physician’s assistant. Generally, you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Since HIV/AIDS is complicated, your PCP will put together a team of providers to help you with whatever HIV/AIDS-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor's referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of a chronic illness, like HIV/AIDS. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in HIV/AIDS. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints, including HIV/AIDS. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services related to diabetes. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and Internal Medicine as the specialty.
A physician’s assistant (PA) is a licensed and certified professional who provides a range of services under the direction and supervision of a doctor. PAs use effective screening and diagnostic procedures for HIV and AIDS. They can establish treatment goals for you, teach you about healthy lifestyles, and motivate you to take care of yourself. To find a PA who treats HIV/AIDS use the North Carolina Medical Board Licensee Search. Choose Physician Assistant as the License Type and Infectious Disease as the Area of Practice. Leave the other fields blank.
Infectious Disease Specialists
Infectious disease specialists specialize in treating people with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as acute and chronic infections. Use this directory from the American Medical Association to locate an infectious disease specialist near you.
Living with a chronic medical condition such as HIV/AIDS can sometimes affect your mental health. To learn more about what kinds of mental health care providers may help you cope with HIV/AIDS, see below.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) can be involved in direct therapy with patients in private practice or they might be part of a team conducting research. They sometimes work as case managers helping people solve problems and connecting them to various resources. In North Carolina, LCSWs must be licensed by the state. Use the HelpPRO Advanced Search to find a LCSW. Choose “Physical Illness/Impairment” from the “Specializes in this concern” drop-down menu and “Social Worker, Licensed Clinical” under the “Holds this credential, certification, or has completed training in” drop-down.
Psychologists have graduate-level training in psychology and either a Ph.D, or Psy.D (Doctor of Psychology). North Carolina allows limited practice with a Master of Psychology degree. The North Carolina Psychological Association maintains this directory of psychologists. You can search by gender, ages served, insurance accepted, languages spoken and more. Enter your zip code and choose “Health Issues” from the “Issue” dropdown.
Licensed Professional Counselors
Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) have master’s degrees and are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders. In North Carolina, LPCs must be licensed by the state. To find a LPC near you, use this directory from the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina. Choose “Illness” under the Primary Specialty or Area of Expertise drop-down menu.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, A service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
There are many support groups, advocacy organizations, blogs, social media, and news sources online to help you cope with HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS community is made up of patients, caregivers, health care providers, and associations who offer support and share their knowledge to anyone touched by this disease. Click here to learn more about services made available by the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina.
HIV/AIDS Supplies: Information about financial assistance with HIV/AIDS supplies and related health care items and services can be found at the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.
Free and Reduced Cost Clinics: Use this directory to search over 300 free and reduced cost clinics across North Carolina by location, hours of operation, insurance accepted (private, Medicaid, uninsured etc.) and type of service provided.
NC AIDS Drug Assistance Program: The NC AIDS Drug Assistance Program is designed to provide financial assistance to low-income state residents for the purchase of medications specifically used to combat HIV and the opportunistic infections which are specific to AIDS. Guidelines for participation in the program include a diagnosis of HIV infection and gross income at or below 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
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