Preparing for Your HIV Care on the Outside


From PHN Issue 30, Fall 2016

If you are going to be released, there are a lot of things to think about first. Are you going to get medical assistance? How will you continue to get medical care for your HIV? Where is a good medical provider you can see? What happens if you can’t pay for medical care? How can you make sure that you won’t miss any medications? Does your prison or jail give you a supply of medications, a medical discharge summary and/or the name of a doctor to see once you are out? There is a lot to plan for. Below are some tips to help you to plan for your HIV care on the outside.

Ask Your Doctor for a Written Summary of Your Medical Care

This is very important. In particular, your new medical provider will want to know the names and dosages of your medications. If your medical provider in prison has changed your medications, write down when they were changed and why (for example: bad side effects, resistance, etc.). This will help your new medical provider know what medications work for you. Even if you think you will be able to remember what your meds are, write this information down just in case. Ask a medical provider to go over it with you.

Try to get the prison/jail medical department to mail your records to your new provider, or at least write up a medical summary. If you are worried that your doctor on the inside won’t do this for you, you can keep a journal or log of your health so when you meet your new medical provider on the outside, you can give them an understanding of what you need. Some things you can include in this journal are:

  • CD4 count information:
    • Date of most recent CD4 test
    • CD4 count at that time
    • Date of lowest ever CD4 count
    • CD4 count at that time
  • Viral Load test:
    • Date of most recent test
    • Viral Load count at that time
    • Date of highest ever viral load
    • Viral Load count at that time
  • Any vaccines administered while in jail/prison
  • Other important medical documentation/imaging (chest x-rays, mammograms, etc…)
  • What HIV medications have you taken, and when did you start taking them? If you have changed medications, why and when?
  • Did you get resistance testing?
  • List all current prescriptions—all medications for all medical issues:
    • Name of medication
    • Date started
    • Dose information
    • Do you have a supply of every medication listed above?

A Supply of Your Meds on Release

Not all institutions will give you a supply. Check with the medical unit. Some facilities give a 30-day supply of certain medications. As you get close to your release, remind the medical department that you will be leaving soon. Ask whether you can take a supply of medications with you to last until your appointment on the outside. On the day that you are released, go to the medical department to pick up your medications. It can be easy to forget to go when you are so happy to be leaving. If you leave with a supply of your meds, make sure you understand how and when to take each pill. Have your prison medical provider write down instructions, if that would help you.

Scheduling a Medical Appointment

Ask the medical staff to help you contact a medical provider before you are released. If the medical department won’t help, see if your counselor or social worker will make the call for you. If you are unable to find a doctor to make an appointment with for after your release, you can write to the AIDS Library (the address is on page 14), and they will research the nearest HIV treatment facilities. If there are no HIV clinics near your home, you can call the closest clinic and get a recommendation for where the nearest HIV medical provider is. It is recommended that you schedule a medical appointment before your release. This is especially important if you are leaving jail without a supply of medications to hold you over. It might be a few weeks before you can get an appointment, so start early!

How Can I Afford HIV Treatments?

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) provides support to half a million people in the United States. RWHAP will help you receive HIV medical care and treatment services, dental care, medications, and other HIV support services. To be eligible you must:

  • Be diagnosed with HIV or AIDS
  • Have an income too low to pay for care
  • Have no health insurance or not enough insurance to pay for the care you need

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