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JUST DIAGNOSED>>>HELP!!!!!!!!
Oct 13, 1998

Dear Sir,

I was just diagnosed as HIV+ a week ago. It didn't sink in until Thursday. I am only 18 years old and all I can think about is how I am going to be dead within a year. I know that may not be true but I just feel as though I am going to be one of the .09% that does die within a year. Also, my parents are coming to visit me in three days. I am debating on whether to tell them now or wait until a later date. I don't know what to do. If you have an suggestions, I would be most grateful.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am very sorry to hear that you were just diagnosed. You are in the midst of a very serious emotional, psychological and life crisis right now. During this phase it is normal to think the worst. This will pass in time as you adjust to living with HIV and realize that most likely you will not be dying from AIDS.

The first thing to do is to educate yourself so you can become an informed consumer of HIV medical, support and psychological services.The internet is a wonderful resource for this. You have already discovered the Body, which is only one of the numerous AIDS web sites. Take the time to explore, and book mark other sites on the web that you think will be helpful. I have written alot of articles about living with HIV that you can access through the Body by clicking on the the link. Start by reading "What is Slef-Empowerment?" and "Long Term Survivors."

The bad news is that you are infected. The good news is that becoming infected in 1998 in the United States you have access to the most sophisticated medical treatments available in the world. There is alot of controversey about whether the best course of action is "to hit it hard and hit and hit it early" with the current treatments known as HAART (Highly active anti-retroviral treatment) that includes at least one Protease Inhibitor, or whether it is best to wait before beginning treatment. Find a doctor who is a specialist in HIV care, and who will treat you with respect as an educated and sophisticated partner in your own health care. But you can not be a passive patient now. You must become informed about all the options in order to discuss the pros and cons of how to proceed with your doctor. In order to become a good consumer of HIV health care you must educate yourself. This is a case where knowledge is not only power, but it can be life saving. To give you a ray of hope, let me share something with you. I have been living with HIV for over 20 years and have never had any HIV or AIDS related conditions, and I am only one person.

Next contact the local AIDS service organization and hook up with a support group of other newly diagnosed people. All the research demonstrates that people with strong social support do better than those without it. This brings us to the question of your parents. If you have a great relationship with them, and feel that they have always been understanding and supportive, then by all means tell them now. If you are not up to that just now, nothing is lost by waiting until you have really digested and adjusted to what living with HIV means to you. Let me repeat that nothing is lost by waiting if you do not feel up to the task of telling them right now.

Best of luck

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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