Do: Prepare in advance.
Ask an AIDS service organization (ASO) caseworker to sit in when
you inform the patient. He or she can handle counseling and education
on appropriate next steps. If no ASO exists in your area, contact your
local department of health for counseling tips. The AIDS Education and
Training Center’s National HIV/AIDS Clinician’s Consultation
Center can also help you prepare (800-933-3413; www.aids-ed.org).
Don’t: Give results over the phone or say, “If we don’t call you, everything’s fine.” Deliver results in person.
direct. Tell your patient, “We’ve received the results of your blood
work, and the HIV test came back positive,” says Los Angeles
infectious-disease specialist Wilbert Jordan, MD. “The best thing we
can do is tell you—and sooner rather than later.”
Inform your patient that HIV is a chronic disease, not a death
sentence. And be empathetic and comforting. If you need to see others,
allow your patient to sit in a waiting room and check in on him or her.
Let your patient fall through the cracks. Handle the diagnosis the same
way you’d handle any other finding that needs to be evaluated by
another doctor. Provide your patient with the name and phone number of
an HIV or infectious disease specialist. Ask the caseworker to
accompany him or her to the appointment.
Do: Ask if there’s anyone your patient wants you to speak to on his or her behalf, says New York HIV specialist Theresa Mack, MD.
Don’t: Neglect to treat other health conditions. Provide the rest of your patient’s routine medical care or subspecialty care.