If you’re concerned about exposure to HIV, either through sexual activity or sharing injection equipment, it’s important to be proactive and talk to your healthcare provider. They can advise you on prevention tips, including regular testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, condom use, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Discussing HIV-related issues can be difficult or uncomfortable to bring up. Use the following guide as a blueprint for how to get the conversation started.

Prepare for your appointment

Before talking about HIV prevention with your healthcare provider, prepare for your appointment by educating yourself on the subject.

There are many resources available online, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, that can provide you with basic information.

Spend some time reading these over, and jot down any notes you may have about specific details or things that you’re unclear about. It can also be helpful to make a list of your health history to take to your appointment. Make sure to include any previous conditions and current medications.

Be direct

When you arrive at your appointment, try to be as direct as possible with your healthcare provider about the purpose of your visit. Explain that you’re concerned about being exposed to HIV and want to learn about prevention methods that are right for you.

It can also be helpful to have your notes open and ready to talk about, so that you can launch right into the conversation. Be prepared to explain the reasons why you’re seeking HIV prevention, and be completely honest with your response. The more open you are about your concerns, the easier it will be for your healthcare provider to advise you.

Don’t feel embarrassed

It’s natural to experience feelings of embarrassment when talking about a subject like HIV prevention. Remember that no matter what you tell your healthcare provider, they’re not going to judge you. Sometimes, the easiest way to manage your embarrassment is to address it directly. Your healthcare provider can then help ease you into the conversation.

Keep in mind that any discomfort you may be feeling during your conversation about methods like PrEP will be far outweighed by the peace of mind you’ll get from protecting yourself against HIV.

Ask questions

Make sure to refer to your notes and ask your healthcare provider all the questions you jotted down during your research. When it comes to your health, there is no such thing as a silly question, so don’t be afraid to ask about anything you’re unclear on.

You may have more questions based on the information you receive from your healthcare provider. Try to make note of anything that comes to mind during your conversation.

Listen

During discussions about a topic like HIV, nervousness can sometimes cause your mind to wander from what the other person is saying. Try your best to be as attentive as possible, and write down any key points in the conversation as they come up.

Don’t worry about trying to keep your notes organized, as you can always clean them up later while you’re reviewing them at home. If your healthcare provider says something that you don’t quite catch, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it.

Review what you’ve learned

After your appointment, review the notes you took during your conversation when you’re back home. Also review any other materials your healthcare provider may have provided.

Think about your options, and use what you’ve learned to help decide what’s right for you. It’s a good idea to follow up with your healthcare provider regardless of your final decision.

If you choose to start PrEP, your healthcare provider can help you schedule any tests or follow-up appointments. If you decide not to use PrEP, your healthcare provider can give you advice on alternative prevention measures.

The takeaway

Even though it may seem daunting, talking to your healthcare provider about HIV prevention is an important step towards protecting yourself against HIV. It’s never too soon to start the conversation, so if you’ve been considering using PrEP, or even if you’re just curious, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider today.