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Is this normal - has my HIV diagnosis really sunk in?

Feb 5, 2011

I got diagnosed with HIV three weeks ago, after experiencing swollen lymph glands - my husband is negative. My initial shock lasted like 5 -10 min. We both took a week free from work and studies. Now we are back to our daily lives. I live in a country with very advanced medical care which is all free. My husband is very, very supportive. We are reading a lot about HIV and discussing so much. I just took blood test to check out my cd4 count and have 3 doctors to my disposal. I take comfort in all that and I am a very optimistic person in life who only focuses on the positive energies. My main concern though is do you think that my diagnosis has not really sunk in and I might crumble later?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

First let me say how fortunate you are to have easy access to advanced medical care as well as a partner who is very supportive. Both are really important in staying healthy. Something as significant as hearing you are HIV+ requires a long process of adaptation and acceptance. Your initial shock may have only lasted a few minutes, but that is just the beginning. You will find yourself experiencing a variety of thoughts and emotions over time. I encourage you to feel them and express them and avoid stuffing them down where they can do real damage. The best-known model for this process is that of Kubler-Ross, who identified five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). There are many other models, as well. The key to all of them is that this is a process ultimately leading to acceptance. Along the way you will experience a variety of feelings. Many people mistakenly believe this is a linear process (for example, moving from denial through anger through bargaining, etc). It's not -- you will find yourself shifting back and forth between various stages, hopefully moving generally toward acceptance. I believe our minds (well, at least mine) can only absorb huge news at a certain pace. That protects us from being overwhelmed or, as you fear, crumbling. Get involved with a therapist, if needed, and support groups. If you use these and remain conscious of your body, thoughts, feelings, I expect that you will have no problem continuing to adapt and adjust. Good luck!

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