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Preparing for emergencies with HIV/AIDS

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Preparing for surgery or hospitalization

Research has shown that people with HIV who have surgery do not have more problems than HIV-negative patients.

However, there are some things HIV-positive women need to do before going to the hospital:

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  • Ask your doctor about the risks of the procedure and how long recovery will take. Make sure your doctor knows about your HIV status.
  • Make a list of the medicines you are taking and give the list to the doctor or surgeon you see in the hospital.
  • Make sure the hospital has information about your medical history — not just that you have HIV, but also your CD4 count and other information. Ask your HIV doctor to send this information to the hospital where you will have surgery.
  • Pick up any refills you may soon need for your HIV medicines. Make sure to bring extra to the hospital in case you need to stay in the hospital longer.
  • Make a schedule of when you take what medicines and give a copy to the nurses at the hospital. Keep a stopwatch and keep track of when you need to take your HIV medicines. It is up to you to keep taking your medicines on time while you are in the hospital.
  • If the hospital does not have one or more of your medicines available, ask if you may take your own until they are able to get the medication.

The best way to avoid hospitalization with HIV is to maintain your best health and take your medications on time as directed by your doctor. When you do have surgery or go to the hospital, it is important to tell the doctors everything you can about your HIV, your health, and your medicines.

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What to do in natural disasters and other emergencies

Emergencies may make it hard for you to get and take your HIV medications on time. To avoid missing any doses, you should always have a 10 to 14-day supply of medications with you at all times.

Also, natural disasters can affect air and water quality, which can be hard on people with HIV/AIDS. Make sure you follow safe food and water guidelines. Stock up on bottled water, non-perishable food (such as canned food), and regular first aid supplies before facing an emergency.

Learn more about what to do in the case of an emergency at AIDS.gov.

In the event of an outbreak or epidemic, such as the flu, ask your doctor if you need to take special precautions.

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More information on Preparing for emergencies with HIV/AIDS

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Emergency Preparedness - If a disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. This section of womenshealth.gov will help you learn simple steps you can take now to be ready to protect and care for your family should an unexpected emergency occur.

Explore other publications and websites

  • Community and State Information - Use this interactive state map to find resources and information on preparedness in your community.
  • Emergency Preparedness - This website offers information about preparing for emergencies when you or a loved one has a disability. It includes tips for preparing an emergency kit, as well as information about including people with disabilities in developing emergency plans.
  • Natural Disaster and State of Emergency - This resource has tips to help people living with HIV/AIDS prepare for a natural disaster. It includes links to other helpful resources.
  • Stress Management (Copyright © The Well Project) - Excessive stress can cause physical and emotional illness, especially in people with HIV/AIDS. This fact sheet gives information on how to tell if you are stressed and tips on how to decrease stress.
  • Travel Tips for HIV+ People (Copyright © The Well Project) - HIV shouldn’t "ground" anyone who wants to travel. This website has tips on how to travel safely if you are HIV-positive.

Connect with other organizations

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

Resources last updated: September 20, 2013.

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