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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women
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Newly Diagnosed? Words of Encouragement from HIV-Positive Women

January 15, 2013


Loreen Willenberg

Loreen Willenberg, Sacramento, Calif., diagnosed in 1992

I would tell someone who just found out that he or she was infected with HIV: "Don't forget to breathe."

Knowledge is power. Now we have the Internet. There's just an amazing volume of information out there, thanks to websites like There's just so much great and accurate information that we can access, compared to what there was 15 years ago when I was diagnosed.

I'm a book reader, so I grabbed books off the shelves like crazy back in 1992. Also, I would say, maybe if their health is up to it and their psyche is up to it, not to be afraid to find out ways that they can become involved. Not necessarily always on the political level, because that can become overwhelming in itself, but seek out support. Use a hotline if you don't want to have your face out there. There's all kinds of things available. [Click here for a list of hotlines]

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Linda (Van Wert, Ohio) Sat., Oct. 15, 2016 at 6:40 am UTC
I diagnosed in 1989. My husband and I had been married for ten months when he got deathly sick. When we'd argue he'd say, "I've got a surprise for you and you ain't gonna' like it." I always thought he was leaving. On his death bed he said, "Baby, when I'm gone ain't no other man going to want to touch you." Nothing about being sorry or that he loved me. I found out after I diagnosed that he knew all along he was infected. He just never shared that with me. I was 41. His words have rung very true. I remain widowed.
I didn't cry for weeks. My big mental memo to myself was to beat it. When I was told I had to start meds, I cried for days. I am the sole surviving charter member of the first ladies support group in Cincinnati. All my friends are gone.
Things to remember when you first diagnose, don't tell unless you have come to grips with the diagnosis. Be able to answer questions. Be able to stand up for yourself. Choose a doctor wisely. Check out the staff. Are they there because they care or do they need a pay check. Take your medications. Keep a diary of any side effects. Eat right. Get away from fast food and soda. Don't smoke..marijuana is ok. Don't drink to survive. Laugh. I went to a camp ground south of where I lived and screamed. I screamed until I couldn't talk, took some pictures of the fall foliage and went home. I kept my job. I retired when I was 65. I am now nearly 69.
Don't worry about others as much as you worry about you. It will work out. The dying years are behind us, but due diligence is the phrase of the day. God. If you thought this is some way He is punishing you; let go of that thought. It's your cross to bear and a cross to share with others who see your struggles and your victories.
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Comment by: Anonymous Sun., Mar. 27, 2016 at 8:02 am UTC
Stay positive and God loves you.
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Comment by: huet to the core (California) Mon., Mar. 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm UTC
I just found out on rhe 13th of March that I have HIV I have not had time to sink it in can't break down cause I have kids but I am dying on the inside I feel like I might explode I just don't know what to do
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Comment by: Eric (RSA uMlazi ) Sat., Jun. 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm UTC
Keep up the good work people.God bless
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Comment by: Siya (Mthatha) Thu., Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm UTC
My wife and I have just got the news a few hours ago, I don't know what to say to her cause she seems to be taking it harder than I am. There's only one thing I can promise her and that is to be the best husband she could ask for. It's not going to be a walk in the park in the sense that our families are very conservative and we both feel they would not accept us or look at us the same way.
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Comment by: patti (new york) Mon., Mar. 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm UTC
I am an HIV positive women diagnosed 1992 and had my HIV negative daughter in 1996.. I was an activist for a while but have been out of the loop for a while. I am encouraged by you all to get involved again. I want to say thanks for the words of encouragement and for continuing the fight of bringing awareness to all women. You are all heros.
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