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Living Well with HIV in Illinois By Chris Wade, HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

If you’re HIV-positive and reside in Illinois, there are steps you can take to prevent transmission to others and you can access needed care to help you manage your own health.

There is a lot to consider:

I’M HIV – POSITIVE, WHAT NOW?: Receiving a positive test result for HIV is the beginning of multiple emotions and feelings. Knowing what care and treatment services are available and how to access them are extremely important to living well with HIV. A variety of confidential services are available in Illinois to help improve your quality of life. Many of these services are available for free. Should you have any questions or would like to speak with a hotline resource counselor, please call the IL HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-243-2437. You may also visit www.hivcareconnect.com to find resources on your own and speak to a representative of a local agency.

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New anti-retroviral treatments and emotional support can lead to longer, healthier lives for people with HIV. The more you know about this chronic illness, the more you’ll be able to work with health care providers to manage your own health care.

Everyone approaches HIV in a different way. Most people have a lot of questions about HIV when they learn about their diagnosis – what it means, what to do about it, how long a person can live, and where to get treatment. @ILCareConnect can help you find the answers, but you’ll also need to work closely with a health care provider to decide what is right for you.

If you are HIV positive, start by finding an agency that provides HIV-related or health services in your area. The agency will provide you with a case manager – someone who knows about HIV programs and services, medications, treatments and related illnesses. If you have a primary healthcare provider that you prefer to contact, ask your doctor to work closely with a HIV specialist to ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you are eligible, as well as the best care possible.

Since HIV is a chronic illness, consider talking with someone who can help you through this difficult time. To help you begin the process of entering care and treatment, your primary health care or case management provider can refer you to a counselor, social worker, someone living with HIV/AIDS, or a mental health professional.

In addition to your healthcare provider, consider connecting with a local AIDS service organization in your area. They may be able to assist you with case management services, housing and transportation, and finding HIV support groups in your area. Learning to live with HIV can be overwhelming and confusing at times @IlCareConnect can help.

The Illinois Department of Public Health & Illinois Public Health Association – HIV Care Connect strive to meet its goals of keeping HIV-positive individuals both physically and mentally healthy; preventing further transmission of HIV; and involving people living with HIV in prevention activities, leadership and advocacy.

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GET LINKED TO CARE: It is estimated that 20-25% of persons living with HIV know they are infected and are not receiving consistent medical care. Combined with the people who are newly diagnosed, there is a great need to focus on linking HIV-positive individuals to available care and treatment. In Illinois, we have a number of specific programs working to connect people to care and maintain that care over time. We invite community stakeholders, consumers, patient care advocates, clinical staff and others to be a part of the “Linkage To Care Team” as we assist HIV-positive individuals to find a medical home.

MEDICATION ADHERENCE: Medication adherence means sticking to a HIV regimen—taking HIV medication exactly as prescribed. Side effects, stigma, and barriers to access all can make it difficult to stick to a HIV regimen, but HIV medications prevent HIV from multiplying, which protects the immune system and reduces the risk of drug resistance and HIV treatment failure.

TREATMENT AS PREVENTION: If you test positive for HIV, treatment should start immediately. Studies show that individuals who start treatment right away stay healthier longer and have a lower viral load.  Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in your blood.  If your viral load is lower you are less likely to transmit HIV to your partner.

Chris wadeChris Wade, HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

Illinois Public Health Association, HIV Care Connect

CWade@ipha.comwww.hivcareconnect.com

HIV Care Connect is a program of the Illinois Public Health Association and is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health