Answers to the most common questions that we get asked about HIV, U=U and the services that are available to help you stay healthy.
I was recently told I have HIV. What do I do?
First, breathe. Everyone responds differently to getting their test results. Take some time you need to process your feelings and ready yourself to move forward. The hard part was getting tested. Your next steps will be much easier.
Always remember, you’re not alone. The Ryan White Program is here for you. We can help with medical care, transportation, emotional support and so much more.
Tell Someone. Dealing with your diagnosis and starting HIV treatment is easier with the care and support of someone close to you. Share your diagnosis with someone you trust.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, download the Positively You app. Everyone on the app is a person living with HIV who has lived a similar experience. They can give you wonderful feedback and support. The Ryan White Program can also connect you to a case manager, counselor or other professional.
Get Medical Care. It’s very important that you connect with a medical provider and start HIV treatment as soon as possible. If you’ve just been diagnosed, you should start medical care within seven days or less.
You may feel overwhelmed by how quickly people want to get you to a doctor. We’ve learned that people who start HIV care quickly go on to live longer, healthier lives. HIV can greatly impact your body before you experience any symptoms. The sooner you address your HIV, the better.
The Ryan White Program has a free Rapid Start program that helps guide people through their HIV diagnosis. Thoughtful, caring people will help you find a nearby provider, offer education and support, and connect you to other care and services you need.
To learn more, call 602-212-3788.
Team Up with Your Provider. You and your medical provider are partners in your health care. Having an open and honest relationship with your provider is essential. Together, you can make the best decisions about your treatment.
To give you the best care, your provider will need to know more about you. They will want to know about any symptoms or health issues you have. They may also ask questions about your medical history, diet, daily schedule, home and social life, and sexual activity.
If you’re very private about your life, let your provider know what you’re comfortable talking about.
You get to ask questions too! Make sure you get all the information you need to feel comfortable with your care plan. You are the lead person for your health care decisions.
Make Your HIV Undetectable. Your treatment goal is to keep the amount of HIV in your body so low that it’s difficult for lab tests to measure. When this occurs, it’s called being “undetectable.” When you’re undetectable over time, HIV has little impact on your health and wellness. More importantly, in means you have zero risk of passing HIV to your sexual partners. This is known as Undetectable=Untransmittable.
I've never needed medical care before.
How am I going to pay for it?
People who are just diagnosed with HIV can get overwhelmed thinking about how to manage their health care long-term, and how to pay for services. The Ryan White Program offers free eligibility screenings, including eligibility for other assistance programs like Medicaid, Indian Health Services, and the Veterans Administration, among others.
Some people think that they won’t qualify for assistance because they aren’t “poor” or disadvantaged in some way. The truth is there are a variety of programs designed to help people with a wide range of income levels and needs.
Even if you have insurance, understanding your benefits can be challenging. An enrollment specialist can help you learn about your coverage, premiums, and copays/deductibles. They can also determine if you qualify for assistance with insurance costs.
Where Do I Start?
Call the eligibility office for your area to schedule an appointment. If you prefer, an eligibility specialist can meet you in-person, online, or at your home or other location.
- Ryan White Part A Central Eligibility – (602) 212-3788 – Serving Maricopa and Pinal County (including metro Phoenix and Casa Grande)
- Ryan White Part B AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) – (602) 364-3610 or (800) 334-1540 – Serving all other counties in Arizona
What Information Will I Need to Provide?
Assistance programs usually determine eligibility based on income. Some programs have other eligibility guidelines. Before you apply for any program, it’s helpful to gather the following types of documents and have them available for review during your eligibility appointment.
- Proof of your HIV positive status, such as your last lab report or your HIV test results. Your doctor can provide copies of these documents.
- Proof of Arizona residency, such as a current lease agreement or utility bill in your name, an Arizona driver’s license or state ID card, etc.
- Proof of your current income, such as one month of paycheck stubs, your most recent tax return, a Social Security benefits statement, etc. If you have no income, some programs will ask you to sign a form stating this.
- For insurance premium and/or copay assistance, you’ll need to provide proof of your insurance, such as your AHCCCS, Medicare or private insurance card.
Get as much of this information as you can before your eligibility appointment. You can still start your eligibility screening even if you’re waiting for a piece of information.
If I qualify for the Ryan White Program,
what services are available?
What is Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)?
This is a simple way to describe the powerful, scientifically proven results of taking your meds daily to keep the amount of HIV in your body low. It means:
Undetectable: Your lab results show very little HIV present in your body for six months or longer. This is also known as “being virally suppressed.”
Untransmittable: You have zero risk of passing HIV to your sexual partners.
Why is U=U so important?
U=U has helped many people with HIV (PWH) and their lovers, friends, and family better understand that with effective HIV treatment, it is possible to enjoy long and healthy lives without the fear of passing HIV to others.
PWH feel more encouraged to start and stay in treatment, and to cultivate more active sexual and social lives. Similarly, HIV negative people feel less afraid or anxious about engaging sexually or socially with PWH.
How do I make my HIV undetectable?
Simply take your HIV medications as prescribed. You’ll have to take meds for about six months before the amount of HIV in your body gets consistently low enough to have sex and not pass HIV to others. Then, you need to continue to take your meds daily to keep your HIV at low levels.
If my labs results can't measure the HIV in my body,
does it mean I'm cured?
There is no cure for HIV. Even though your lab results show very little HIV in your body, it’s still there. The amount is just very, very small and hard to find.
Does everyone who takes HIV meds become "undetectable?"
Most PWH who take their HIV meds daily can decrease the amount of HIV in their body to undetectable levels within six months. About one out of every six people will need more time. When they continue to take their meds as prescribed, they can remain undetectable.
A small amount of people won’t ever be able to the HIV in their body to an undetectable level. This can be due to other health issues, how often they take their meds, or other reasons.
It’s OK if a person can’t lower their HIV. To live the healthiest life possible, they should keep taking their meds as prescribed. They can enjoy safer sex with partners who choose other prevention options like condoms and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
What will happen if I stop taking my HIV meds?
If you stop taking your meds, or don’t take them daily as prescribed, the amount of HIV in your body will increase. This can affect your overall health and will make it possible for you to pass HIV on to a sexual partner.
Does taking HIV meds protect me from other
sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
No. HIV meds do not protect you or your partners from STIs like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia. If you are sexually active, you should be tested for STDs at least once a year.
If my HIV is undetectable and my partner is HIV negative,
is it still necessary to use Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a once-a-day pill that HIV negative people take to protect themselves against HIV. PrEP is highly effective for HIV prevention but does not protect people from STIs.
Condoms provide excellent protection against HIV and STIs. A combination of PrEP and condoms will provide maximum protection.
Always discuss HIV prevention options with your partners before any sexual activity.
What if I live in Arizona, but outside of Maricopa and Pinal Counties? What do I do?
You may still be eligible for services through the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Ryan White Part B Program, which serves all other counties in Arizona. Contact their office to see if you qualify:
Ryan White Part B AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) – (602) 364-3610 or (800) 344-1540.
Have More Questions?
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