Your relationship with your doctor and other health care workers is an important piece of your health. You are a team: you give them information about how you feel day to day, and they provide care to keep you as healthy as possible.
Finding the best doctor
You’ll typically see a general practitioner (GP) for basic health care and a specialist for HIV- or hepatitis-specific care. If you get your general care at a drop-in clinic, it can be tough to see the same doctor each time you go. Some clinics make appointments, so if you can make an appointment to see the doctor you like, that’s great.
Your relationship with your doctor will be a long one, so go for comfort, knowledge, and confidence. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you comfortable talking with your doctor?
- Are you confident you can work together?
- In the case of a GP, does your doctor have women with HIV or hepatitis C in their practice?
- If HIV or hepatitis C is new to your doctor, are they willing to learn about it?
If you’re not happy with your doctor, ask yourself why. Is it general discomfort? Does your doctor understand HIV and hepatitis C? If you know or want to talk about what might improve the situation, Positive Women’s Network can help in sorting it out.
Talking to your doctor
Talking to your doctor honestly is important. Doctors can seem intimidating, but they don’t know everything. They need as much health information about you as possible so they can use it to help. Some of the things you may talk about include sources of stress, housing, food, relationships, and alcohol and drug use.
Here are some tips to make the most of your appointments:
- Write out your questions beforehand
- Bring a friend or support worker to the appointment for an extra set of ears
- Ask the doctor to repeat anything you don’t understand
- Ask the meaning of terms you don’t know
- Take notes of what the doctor says and review them later
- Take your time and ask questions
- Don’t make major decisions on the spot if you’re not comfortable doing so
- Book another appointment if you run out of time
If you need to talk with someone before or after your appointment, we’re here.
Dealing with discrimination
Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV or hepatitis C are unfortunate occurrences in health care. If you experience such treatment, know that you do not deserve it.
You can try talking with the health care worker or their supervisor about what happened. You can also write a letter of complaint, which can be given to the health facility as well as the appropriate professional associations. For example, a letter of complaint regarding a doctor can be provided to Doctors of BC and the Canadian Medical Association. You may also be able to file a human rights complaint.
You can get support with these steps from Positive Women’s Network. A worker can accompany you, help you write a letter, and give you direction on who the letter can be sent to.