Finding the right doc

You’re ready to take charge of your health, but don’t know where to begin when it comes to finding a doctor? Don’t worry, help is here!

Want to find a gay-friendly doctor?

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) is “the world’s largest and oldest association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health care professionals.” and they have a FREE online provider directory. Search their directory for primary care providers, specialists, therapists, dentists, and other health professionalsin your area.

What if you don’t know if your doctor is gay-friendly?

If you don’t know if your provider is gay-friendly, here are some tips on how to find out more:

  • Tell your doctor that you are gay. Ask if he/she has other patients who are gay?
  • If he/she doesn’t have other gay patients, ask if he/she is comfortable treating gay paitents or if there’s another provider in the practice (or elsewhere) he/she would recommend.
  • Make sure to tell your doctor whether you’re sexually active (or thinking about becoming sexually active) and see if your doctor is open to talking about it.

My doctor is gay.

This could be fantastic, but it doesn’t guarantee that he or she is the right fit for you. Remember that you are the patient, and everyone has unique health concerns. It’s still a good idea to ask lots of questions and make sure you are comfortable with the doctor as a professional. After all, the fact that both of you are gay doesn’t mean you’ll be a good match.

If you are concerned that you and your doctor have overlapping social circles, make sure to have a conversation with her or him about your desired level of privacy. All health professionals have to follow strict privacy regulations which include not sharing any information that would reveal that you are their patient (unless it’s for clinical purposes).

What if you have HIV?

If you have HIV, it’s important to find someone or a team of people to help manage your care. If you have HIV, your providers often include:

  • Doctors
  • Nurse Practitioners/Nurses/Physician’s Assistants

Your primary provider may work with other healthcare professionals to ensure that you have the best care possible. Other important healthcare providers include a social worker, psychologists/psychiatrist, pharmacist, dietician, dentist, or case manager. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and working with an HIV provider (or team of providers):

  • You are entitled to quality care for your HIV. Where you live or funding may limit your choices about who your care provider will be, but you have a right to expect treatment from a competent and caring medical professional.
  • It’s possible that you will be referred to an HIV specialist by your HIV testing center or your primary healthcare provider. An HIV specialist is a provider who specializes in working with HIV patients. If you’re not referred to an HIV specialist, you may want to locate resources in your community that can help you find an HIV service provider. You can always change your provider later if he/she is not a good fit.
  • Remember that not all health providers are specialists in HIV. It’s perfectly fine for you to ask them about their training or experience in treating people living with HIV. A good healthcare provider will not be offended or defensive if you ask.

You might want to see a counselor or other mental health provider. Learning that you have HIV can be upsetting and it’s very common for people to want to talk with someone about it. Your medical provider may be able to refer you to someone. If you have insurance, they may or may not cover mental health visits, so it’s good to check with them first to find out their policy. Sometimes people living with HIV have needs for other services like housing, case management, dental care, and transportation. You can ask your provider about services you may be eligible for.

Remember, the goal is to find a provider (or group of providers) that can best meet all of your medical, psychological, and social service needs!

If you have HIV, what questions should you ask your doctor?

Your doctor is there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions! The more openly you talk with your doctor about sex and drugs or [fill in the blank with whatever is important to you], the more your doctor can help. Remember: there are no stupid questions! Many people find it helpful to bring a list of questions to their appointments. During an appointment, it can be easy to forget questions you meant to ask. You might want to write down questionsabout topics like:

  • Appointments: How often will I have to see my provider? What if I get sick over a weekend or holiday, who should I call? Can I email my provider with questions?
  • Blood work: How often will I have to get my blood checked? When should I expect to get the results from my blood work?
  • Medications: What side effects could I experience from the medications my provider is prescribing? What should I do if I ever miss a dose? Is it OK for me to take other (non-HIV) medications?
  • Drugs and alcohol: How will using drugs affect my HIV? Is it OK to have a drink with dinner? Is it OK to take herbs from my acupuncturist?
  • Sexual activity: Is it still OK to have sex if I have HIV? What if my partner doesn’t have HIV, how can I make sure he doesn’t get it?
  • Exercise: Is it safe for me to work out? If so, how much, and what activities are OK?
  • Medical records: Can I get a copy of my lab results and other important medical information for my records?
For more questions to ask your doctor, check out this list from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.