From Patient Education
to Patient Empowerment

Help inform and empower HIV-positive patients to stay on track with treatment


Consider the following tactics to help educate and empower patients to make treatment decisions that lead to better health outcomes.

Anticipate a learning curve

Fear, anger, and shock may cloud your patients' perceptions after receiving an HIV diagnosis. Patients need to hear that HIV is a manageable condition, and with effective treatment they can have close to a normal life expectancy.2 Patient education on how to live with HIV should start immediately, but anticipate that patients may need time for a diagnosis to sink in, and schedule frequent follow-up visits for additional opportunities to repeat and reinforce information and directives as needed.

Encourage patients to keep learning

Informed patients are better equipped to make decisions that lead to positive health outcomes.2 Patients need to know that HIV is an ongoing journey and should be encouraged to keep learning everything they can about HIV, as well as what they can do to protect their health and the health of others. Patient education that includes information and related tools can encourage more active participation in care.

Topics to Cover

HIV basics HIV risk and prevention HIV lab tests and results General HIV treatment information HIV treatment goals and options HIV medication access and coverage Available HIV support services

Take a patient-centric approach

Support individual needs with a patient-centered approach to education.2 Connect patients to a multidisciplinary team according to patient-specific needs. Some patients may not absorb information right away, so repetition is key. Others may need information tailored to their literacy level or communicated in their primary language. Still others may prefer to learn from the experience of an HIV peer educator. Try different approaches to see what works for each patient.

Did You Know?

HIV-positive peer educators can help promote a patient-centric atmosphere.2

Educate to empower

One primary goal in HIV care is patient self-management, which involves patients adopting new behaviors over time to take charge of their health.2 These management practices may include problem solving, goal setting, dealing with tough emotions, or adopting healthy behaviors regarding sex and disclosure. Foster patient self-management by creating a supportive learning atmosphere. As patients learn and adopt new skills, they will gain a sense of empowerment. Once patients have started to self-manage, continue to support them by developing health action plans that are realistic, valued, action-specific, and obtainable, so they can achieve, step by step, the knowledge and confidence they need to live a better life with HIV.

References: 1. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in adults and adolescents living with HIV. AIDSinfo website. Published May 30, 2018. Accessed
June 20, 2018.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Guide for HIV/AIDS Clinical Care – 2014 Edition. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014. Published April 2014. Accessed June 20, 2016.

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