The goal of The Project of PHC is to provide confidential, free or low cost services to help people living with HIV move through the continuum of HIV care. From the time of diagnosis, our staff help patients connect to care, access resources, and overcome obstacles that will help them achieve the best possible health outcomes. Here’s what you need to know about the “continuum of care” model.
KNOW YOUR HIV STATUS
You can’t rely on symptoms to know whether you have HIV. You can look and feel perfectly healthy and still have HIV. The only way to know is to get tested. You can schedule your free and confidential HIV and STI screenings online – using any web enabled device, or by calling us at 515-248-1595.
The only way to know is to get tested
Getting tested gives you the knowledge you need to protect yourself and your partners. If you learn you are HIV-positive, you can start treatment that will help you stay healthy and live longer. You can also take steps to reduce the risk of passing HIV on to others.
SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR HIV?
CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care.
Get Tested More Often If You Engage In Risky Behaviors
Behaviors that put you at risk for HIV include having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV, or sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should definitely get an HIV test:
- Have you had sex with someone who is HIV-positive or whose status you didn’t know since your last HIV test?
- Have you injected drugs (including steroids, hormones, or silicone) and shared equipment (or works, such as needles and syringes) with others?
- Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, like syphilis?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose history you don’t know?
- If you continue having unsafe sex or sharing injection drug equipment, you should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months)
CONNECT TO CARE
After you are diagnosed HIV-positive, it’s important to get connected to an HIV provider as soon as possible. Why? Because with proper care and treatment, you can stay healthy, live longer, and reduce the chances of transmitting HIV to others.
Your provider will conduct a complete health evaluation and conduct lab tests to set up a treatment plan to help you stay healthy. If you have a regular doctor, you can also speak with him or her about whether they can lead your HIV care or would refer you to an HIV specialist they work with.
Get connected to care
The sooner you get connected to an HIV provider, the sooner you can start treatment to stay healthy and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
Help Is Available
Sometimes people who have just been diagnosed with HIV feel reluctant to make that first call to get connected to care. There might be lots of things standing in their way: fear, transportation issues, child care responsibilities, confidentiality concerns, poor experiences with the healthcare system, or worries about how to pay for care.
But there are lots of people who can help you. Many HIV testing centers offer “linkage services” to help connect you to an HIV provider in your area. HIV clinics also often have navigators who can help you work through your issues and concerns and ensure you get connected to the care you need.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone! Help is available and the sooner you get connected to care, the better.
WHO IS ON AN HIV CARE TEAM?
An HIV care team is a network of professionals who are there to assist you in staying healthy.
- HIV Care Team Members
Your HIV care team may include several individuals, including an HIV provider—a medical professional who will oversee your HIV care and treatment; nurses or nurse practitioners who will manage your care on a regular basis; and case managers who will help you steer through the care system and apply for and access health insurance, housing support, legal assistance, or any help you may need.Your team may also include others, including pharmacists, counselors, dietitians/nutritionists, dental providers, and specialists who will assist you so that you can stay as healthy as possible and live life to the fullest!
WHEN SHOULD I GET CONNECTED TO CARE?
As soon as you can. Mounting scientific evidence has made clear the many benefits of starting HIV care and treatment as early as possible.
- What To Expect
Your HIV provider will review your health history, conduct a physical exam, and run some lab tests to evaluate your overall health and determine the stage of HIV disease in your body. These are important initial tests that will help you and your provider determine the best treatment plan for you.
WHAT IS ART?
ART is the use of HIV medicines to fight HIV infection. It involves taking a combination of HIV medicines every day. These HIV medicines are lifesavers and will help you stay healthy. ART is recommended for all HIV-positive people, even if you feel fine. ART can’t cure HIV, but it can control the virus so that you can live a longer, healthier life and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
WHAT DOES TAKING ART INVOLVE?
ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an “HIV regimen”) every day and exactly as prescribed.
- How Do These Medicines Help?
These HIV medicines prevent HIV from multiplying (making copies of itself), which reduces the amount of HIV in your body. Having less HIV in your body gives your immune system a chance to recover and fight off infections and cancers. Even though there is still some HIV in the body, the immune system is strong enough to fight off infections and cancers.By reducing the amount of HIV in your body, HIV medicines also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Today, HIV medicines are easier to take and have fewer side effects than in years past.
WHEN SHOULD I START ART?
ART is recommended for everyone infected with HIV. When to start ART, however, depends on your unique needs and circumstances.
- Guidelines To Follow
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides guidelines on the use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. Current U.S. HIV treatment guidelines recommend ART for all persons with HIV, regardless of CD4-cell count, to improve their health, prolong their lives, and reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to others.
- Talk To Your Provider
Work closely with your HIV provider to make decisions regarding the use of ART and discuss the potential risks. Learn more about when to start ART.
WHY SHOULD I START ART?
If you are living with HIV, ART can lower the amount of virus in your blood so that you can stay healthy, live longer, and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
- What If I’m Feeling Fine?
Don’t assume that just because you’re feeling fine, exercising, and taking care of yourself, you don’t need ART. Only ART can fight HIV infection. ART helps keep your viral load down so that you stay healthy, and helps protect against infections and health problems, including certain cancers.
STAY IN CARE
Care and treatment for HIV is a lifelong process. Keep taking your meds to stay healthy. You need to keep taking your HIV medications and receive regular HIV medical care. By doing so, you can reduce your chances of getting sick from your HIV disease and prevent transmitting the virus to others. If something is getting in the way of staying in care, talk to your HIV provider so he or she can find ways to help you stay on track. Your life and future are worth it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING ON ART
For HIV medicines to work, you need to take them every day, exactly as prescribed. This is called “adherence.” Adherence involves:
- Taking all of the medicines in your HIV drug combination in the correct quantities
- Taking your HIV medicines at the right time
- Following your provider’s instructions about food and drink with your medicines.
What Happens When You Skip Doses?
Taking HIV medicines every day prevents HIV from multiplying. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply, which increases the risk of drug-resistant HIV developing. That means your HIV medicines will no longer be as effective and your doctor will need to prescribe a different regimen — one that may not work as well for you.
SEE YOUR PROVIDER REGULARLY
Staying in care isn’t just about keeping up with your HIV medicines. It’s also about seeing your HIV provider regularly — usually a couple of times a year, depending on your health.
- Keep Up With Your Appointments
Keep going to your appointments, even if you are feeling well. Your HIV provider will help make sure it stays that way.
- Get Help With Other Issues
Your HIV care team will also treat you for other health issues you may have and help connect you to assistance for other issues that could impact the success of your treatment, such as housing or legal problems.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE FALL OUT OF CARE?
There are many reasons why some people stop taking their HIV medication and fall out of care.
- Side Effects
Some stop taking their HIV meds because they experience bad side effects. Tell your HIV provider if your medicines are making you sick. He or she will help you avoid or manage side effects, or find a different combination of medicines that works better for you. There are many effective HIV medications: don’t give up just because you have a bad experience!
- Other Reasons
Other people fall out of care because they experience mental health problems, such as depression, or substance abuse issues. These conditions are treatable and help is available. Other reasons include fears about disclosing one’s HIV-positive status, unstable housing, and concerns about paying care. And other people fall out of care because they move to a new city and don’t know where to find treatment, or start to feel good and don’t think they need their medication anymore. Talk about all of these issues with your HIV care team. They are there to help you.
TOOLS TO HELP WITH YOUR TREATMENT AND CARE
Having access to your medical records can help you track your progress, monitor your lab results, communicate with your HIV care team, and adhere to your medication. Learn more about the power of health information.
There also are many e-health tools that make it fast, easy, and safe for you to access and manage your health info.
We also focus on prevention, providing community outreach and access to the most effective tools to prevent HIV.
Patient receiving care at The Project have access to many services conveniently located under one roof at 1200 University Avenue campus. Medical and dental care, behavioral health, case management and supportive services are all housed at this location. Our caring and compassionate staff are dedicated to ensuring our patients receive the care and services they need.