Getting the right treatment looks different for everybody.
If you find out you’re HIV-positive, make an appointment with your doctor or visit a clinic to talk about your options. They’ll probably ask you about your medical history, give you a physical, and do some tests to check in with your body’s response to the virus so far. This information helps them to give you the best treatment, so tell them everything you think they need to know.
It’s possible you find it hard talking to your doctor, and throughout this process you may have to learn to speak up for yourself. You might want to find a new doctor, since not every doctor is experienced with HIV. Research has shown that people with HIV have better health outcomes when they get their medical care from places that serve a larger number of people with HIV, since they are more likely to know more about how to support people with HIV and may have specialists to support people with different aspects of care. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with your regular doctor, you can ask for a referral to someone else or talk to a local HIV/AIDS organization to see if there is a doctor they can recommend. In Ontario, there is a network of HIV outpatient clinics and some specialised primary care practices that provide high quality, specialized care to people with HIV. Contact the AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine by calling 1-800-668-2437 to find an HIV care provider nearest to you. If this isn’t an option where you live, getting educated through websites like CATIE and NAM can help you advocate for yourself.
Sometimes access to HIV treatments is as easy as going to the doctor, getting a prescription, and going to the pharmacy. For others, cost, insurance coverage, stigma, or added health problems can make it a bit more complicated. Navigating treatment, especially when life is already complex, can take time, and the decisions about your treatment and care are ultimately up to you. Taking charge of your life and health can be challenging, but it’s well worth the effort. Whoever you are, your approach to managing your health will be unique. CATIE has written a very thorough guide that includes advice for accessing treatment while living with HIV.
If you don’t have a private insurance plan to help pay for HIV medication, you still have plenty of options. Every province and territory in Canada has a different way of helping people who need HIV meds. In general, these programs will offer coverage for people on social assistance and for seniors. Others will offer some coverage to people with no insurance.
Ontario has a number of government programs to assist with the cost of HIV medications. One of these programs is the Trillium Drug Program (TDP). The TDP helps people with high drug costs to pay for their medication. This includes people with HIV. Information on the TDP and other programs can be found here.
Everyone’s situation is unique, and these programs can be tough to understand. If you’re having a hard time with getting access to your meds, contact your local HIV/AIDS Service Organization or HIV care clinic. They can help you sort through your options. CATIE has a guide about the different programs that could help.