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Day One With HIV: Finding Out Your Status, in Your Own Words

Regardless of where or how it happened, the day you received your HIV-positive diagnosis was likely among the most intense days you'll ever live through. Some of's readers have generously shared their experiences -- to reflect on how they've changed, and so that others would know that they too can survive, and even thrive, following that fateful day.

How did you get through it? Want to share your "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed.

Jonathon Arntson I Tested HIV Positive in a Prison Reception Center, and It Saved My Life (Posted April 25, 2017)
By Lisa S.

"The nurse, in a very low tone, said 'you have tested positive for HIV.' I had no words. She asked if I was OK. I remember thinking, 'who asks a person a question like that?'"

Jonathon Arntson A Routine HIV Test Led to My Non-Routine Day (Posted March 6, 2017)
By Jonathon Arntson

Hearing the expected, positive result, "My calmness transitioned to numbness. I was no longer controlling my composure; it was rigid and holding itself up. I said, 'Well, that sucks,' and chuckled."

vegetation Sometimes I Forget I Have HIV, and Sometimes I Feel Panic, Sadness or Loneliness (Posted January 24, 2017)
By Manuel Sánchez

"Instead of feeling shocked, I kind of felt relief, because now I knew what I had," explains Manuel Sánchez about the day he found out he was HIV positive.

sad face Testing for PrEP, I Found Out I Was HIV Positive (Posted September 21, 2016)
By S.

"After years of negative results, I had in some illogical way convinced myself that I was above this virus," reports S. from South Africa. "After all, this time the test was just a formality before taking the PrEP step."

Harold R. 'Scottie' Scott The Journey From Small Town Secret to Sharing My HIV Story (Posted September 13, 2016)
By Harold R. "Scottie" Scott

Growing up on a working farm in rural Tennessee, Harold Scott never thought he would be affected by the AIDS epidemic. Then he learned his HIV status.

George M. Johnson On the "Best, Worst Day" of My Life, I Tested HIV Positive (Posted August 29, 2016)
By George M. Johnson

"I had just turned 25 and was about to graduate from grad school. Things were looking up for me -- but I wasn't feeling well and knew deep inside that something was wrong," recalls George Johnson. "It was November 19 to be exact, a day after my mom's birthday, when I finally built up the courage to go and get tested."

Wanda L. London Incredibly Loud, Extremely Close: The Day I Received My HIV Diagnosis (Posted March 27, 2016)
By Wanda L. London

"Two weeks before, my doctor assured me that I did not have anything to fear. He didn't really see the need for me to be tested," London recalls. "Well, where was he now? Why wasn't he here to reaffirm those feeling?"

Martez Smith Finding Myself in the Ballroom and the HIV Testing Center (Posted March 27, 2016)
By Martez Smith

One of the hardest parts of being an HIV tester was telling someone they are positive, Smith said. Especially when testing young black men like himself. Then he tested positive and realized, "learning that you are HIV+ is a series of moments over a lifetime."

Richard Cordova After I Cried All My Tears: Learning to Accept HIV (Posted February 21, 2016)
By Richard Cordova

Since becoming HIV positive 13 years ago, Richard Cordova has learned a lot about himself. Learning to accept his disease did not happen overnight. But he finally reached a breaking point thanks to a song.

Fabien Nové-Josserand Unprepared Yet Resilient (Posted November 9, 2015)
By Fabien Nové-Josserand

"I drove to the clinic oblivious to the kind of news I was about to receive. For me, it was only a formality and I was slightly annoyed that I had to drive all the way to the clinic to get a result that, I was certain, would be negative," Fabien said. "The remote possibility that I had been at risk at any time escaped me completely."

When I Learned I Had HIV, I Told Myself Life Has to Go On When I Learned I Had HIV, I Told Myself Life Has to Go On (Posted October 26, 2015)
By Gertie

"The doc told me not to test for HIV on that particular day since it was a festive season," Gertie recalls. "I told him, 'I am not a child anymore. I wanted the truth!'"

Angel Stetson A Life Turned Upside Down by an HIV Diagnosis (Posted October 14, 2015)
By Angel Stetson

"I didn't know how to perceive myself upon hearing the news," says Angel Stetson. "Who was I? What did this mean? How was I going to survive, or tell my boyfriend of eight years?"

Michael Mersinger Picking Up and Learning to Make a Better Life With HIV (Posted June 17, 2015)
By Michael Mersinger

What's it like to hear the words "you're HIV positive" from your doctor? The latest entry in our Day One With HIV series describes just that.

Clearing the Air After an HIV Diagnosis Clearing the Air After an HIV Diagnosis (Posted January 9, 2015)
By Helen

After an HIV diagnosis brought up old secrets, Helen learned to be more open, honest and healthy.

The Miracles That Come After an HIV Diagnosis The Miracles That Come After an HIV Diagnosis (Posted September 29, 2014)
By Erin Wanjira

In the midst of depression and a violent relationship, Erin was diagnosed with HIV and found her way out.

12 Years and Still Going Strong 12 Years and Still Going Strong (Posted September 9, 2014)
By Matt Lowe

I was diagnosed on Sept. 1, 2002. I remember being at the hospital to get my results. I was advised to give a false name just in case the result was negative. It wasn't!!

The Man Who Was Happy to Find Out He Had AIDS The Man Who Was Happy to Find Out He Had AIDS (Posted August 1, 2014)
By Mark Milano

My problems began in 1981, when I developed a low-grade flu. I wasn't sick enough to be at home in bed, but I still felt lousy. And this wasn't the first time this had happened. I seemed to get sick all the time, even though I was only 25, went to the gym five times a week, ate well, never smoked and never did drugs.

A Military Diagnosis, and Unrelenting Support From the National Guard A Military Diagnosis, and Unrelenting Support From the National Guard (Posted July 9, 2014)
By Carl Sisco

I thought I was going to be told I had high blood pressure or diabetes, which will get you permanently barred from flying. When the flight surgeon told me I was HIV positive, everything came to a stop in my mind.

An HIV Diagnosis While in College Brings Upheaval, Questions and Contemplation An HIV Diagnosis While in College Brings Upheaval, Questions and Contemplation (Posted June 27, 2014)
By Jason Q

Needless to say, my life is a mess and the future that was once so clear seems so blurred and uncertain. I am simply looking to my graduation day, and trying to overcome the depression I have been fighting since my day one.

Twelve Years Later 12 Years Later (Posted May 30, 2014)
By Michael James

I left the house and just drove. Don't know how it happened, but I ended up near the local university hospital and just walked into the ER. It was very late, and there was no one there, so I approached the desk and told the attendant that I was thinking about hurting myself.

After a Car Crash, an HIV Diagnosis That Changed a Life After a Car Crash, an HIV Diagnosis That Changed a Life (Posted May 13, 2014)
By Don

I don't remember much about the next few weeks. The day I was told I was HIV positive, I was still in the hospital and recovering. The young doctor walked in and sat my mother down beside my bed, and told us that it was not a good report he was about to tell us. One of the seven pints of blood was mislabeled in the storage area and contained HIV.

On Denial After an HIV Diagnosis On Denial After an HIV Diagnosis (Posted April 1, 2014)
By William

I knew full well I was positive all along, from the early 80s. Two of my former partners were quite ill and I wondered how it could not have affected me. I had essentially stopped having sex after their diagnosis. Then two years later, safe sex. So, from this, I determined it had to be the early 80s.

This led to drug and alcohol abuse. I was assuming I was going to be dead shortly.

R. Craig Stringer Nightlight: On My HIV Diagnosis and Crystal Meth (Posted March 17, 2014)
By R. Craig Stringer

In 1984, testing positive was a death sentence. When I finally did make it into the office, someone, some counselor or caseworker provided my prognosis. "Let's see, you're 21, so that means, approximately 8 years. So you could live to see 30!"

Shannon C. My Life With HIV "Isn't a Happy Story" (Posted January 3, 2014)
By Shannon C.

They had called the health department; they were in the office waiting for me. The doctor came in and asked if I knew I had HIV. I said no, so they talked to me about it, and I burst out hysterically crying. I was devastated!

Daniel Mark Hall "I'd Always Practiced Safer Sex -- For the Most Part" (Posted November 1, 2013)
By Daniel Mark Hall

We sat down for our results, and the two volunteers gave my partner his results first. "Adam" (not his real name), they said -- "your results came back negative, you do not have HIV." What seemed like an hour passed, as the volunteers started shuffling papers and getting some brochures ready to I assume hand me, something they did not do prior to giving my partner his results.

'I Learned the Hard Way About HIV Disclosure' "I Learned the Hard Way About HIV Disclosure" (Posted October 15, 2013)
By Debbie Gaspar

I am at work in my government job. I took my test two weeks ago. My doctor calls to tell me that I have tested positive. Then he says come into my office now so we can talk. I am crying; it is April of 1990. I have no idea what this means for me.

Tom "Love Made My First Day With HIV a Happy Memory" (Posted September 19, 2013)
By Tom

I felt no different. I wasn't sick. I didn't need treatment. I wasn't sad. I was just unsure about what the future would hold for me, for our relationship, for our sex life.

Rita Botha "Blessed With an Empathetic HIV Doctor" in the 1980s (Posted August 1, 2013)
By Rita Botha

There is not much to be said for a normal mid-suburban girl finding the man of her dreams, marrying him at age 21 and having two beautiful daughters by age 28. Except that is me, and that was my life. Until something very unexpected came and turned that life upside-down.

My husband of 10 years was always a very handsome, lean man and the loss of a couple of pounds went unnoticed. Until he got sick.

'The Most Agonizing Wait in My Life' "The Most Agonizing Wait in My Life" (Posted July 16, 2013)
By Matong

The day of reckoning was on 28 January 2008. We laid my wife to rest on 22 January 2008. I had been grief-stricken and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I turned to alcohol for solace. I had been unable to deal with the intensity of my feelings. Sooner or later I had come to the grim realization that I had to make the informed choice of testing for HIV. It had slowly struck me that you can run away from HIV infection, but you cannot hide from it.

Mikey Barnum "I Learned How Much People Can Care for Each Other" (Posted June 29, 2013)
By Mikey Barnum

I had gotten sick. Very sick. I had a high fever, I had night sweats so bad that I woke up with soaked sheets, and even worse, no appetite. I wasn't stupid. I was well-read on the issues and knew what it meant and what it was like when someone contracted HIV. I prayed to God that I was wrong, but in my heart I knew what was happening: I was seroconverting in a bad way.

Anuoluwapo "Perhaps It Was Time to Give Up" (Posted June 29, 2013)
By Gregory Fowler

Rather than talk now about my Day One Story, I thought I would share my personal journal entry from that day:

April 18, 1988

The end of a long day. What else can I say about it? I turned 30 years old. It's suppose to be one of those traumatic experiences, right? People at work must have thought I was taking it particularly bad. Who could I talk to? Was there anyone who could understand -- when you get to the point that you feel you whole life had ended ... and the mere fact of turning 30 is the least important thing you can think of. I thought of postponing my appointment. Something about going to find the result of my HIV test on my birthday seemed a little bit too dramatic. It was like a bad television movie. If the results were negative, I knew it would open up the rest of my life to me. I felt like it might even be a new beginning.

Anuoluwapo "I Had to Give My Baby a Chance at HIV-Free Life" (Posted June 13, 2013)
By Anuoluwapo

My first day with the virus was the 27th of December, 2007. I was supposed to have my baby on the 13th of December, but no sign of dilation or contraction.

I visited the hospital on the 27th of December and I was told I couldn't have my baby alone, only with a C-section to save his life.

Harold Scott "Not Leukemia, but Something Far More Shocking" (Posted June 13, 2013)
By Harold Scott

The day was a crisp, middle-Tennessee, autumn day.

I was at work at a local manufacturing company, in my small hometown of less than 1,000 residents. The week prior, I had traveled into Nashville, Tenn., to see an oncologist, because it was thought I may have leukemia, because of the symptoms I had been having for the past several weeks.

The day was Thursday, October 24, 1991. The time was 11:07 a.m.

Robert Toth "24 Years Later, I'm Here!" (Posted May 31, 2013)
By Robert Toth

The day was dark, drizzly and dreary. A cold October day. Settling into the waiting room at the Public Health Center under the nom de plume "George Bush," I was somewhat nervous.

Two previous HIV tests had come back negative. I'd had a serious "event" a month or so before. Projectile vomiting, drenching sweats, chills. I "knew" something wasn't right and it wasn't strep throat.

Bob Clark "'Mad' Wasn't the Word That Came to Mind" (Posted May 29, 2013)
By Bob Clark

One day in May 1989, my partner came home and told me he had both HIV and AIDS. In one moment, my life changed forever. I was tested and found to be negative -- until February 1992 when I visited the doctor for a urinary infection and was asked if I wanted an HIV test. I said no as I was having it done elsewhere anonymously.

Kyle Martin "I Needed Support From My Family and Friends" (Posted May 24, 2013)
By Kyle Martin

For me, finding out I had HIV was one of the worst days of my entire life. Here I was, 21 years old, admitted to a mental hospital for suicidal thoughts, and when I felt like I was on a somewhat steady path to stability, I get called into a room with a psychiatrist to tell me I was HIV positive.

I had a huge gamut of emotions ranging from sadness, to hopelessness, to regret, to depression. I will admit, I slipped into a heavy breakdown.

Patrick Ingram "A Shadow Came Over My Head" (Videos) (Posted May 23, 2013)
By Patrick Ingram

Getting the news was the worst news so far in my then 22 years living on this earth, that was the worst news I've received in my life. I've had family members pass away, I've failed at dreams that I've had, but finding out I was HIV positive was the worst moment of my life.

The second-worst moment was having to call my partner, who was at work, drag him out of work, and call him and give him the news.

Jason McDonald "Coming Out of the Second Closet" (Posted May 1, 2013)
By Jason McDonald

I am ashamed to admit that I, like so many gay men, buried my head in the sand when it came to HIV. Like many in the gay community, I too had become fatigued with hearing about safe sex, HIV, AIDS, etc. I subconsciously, but purposely, avoided taking an HIV test, because I wanted to live the illusion that my IV meth use and the activity that goes along with that lifestyle would have no consequences to my health. And HIV was the unspoken pink elephant in the room amongst modern gay guys. The only time HIV was ever mentioned was when gossip and speculation over someone's status became the topic of the moment.

Erin Gingrich "I Had Never Actually Met Anyone Who Was Positive" (Posted April 28, 2013)
By Erin Gingrich

March 16, 2010. I remember it so vividly. I was in an in-patient drug treatment facility, 21 days sober and angry at everyone. When I got the news that my HIV test was confirmed positive, I thought I was receiving my death sentence. I now know, that was actually the moment I was blessed with a new life.

I grew up quite sheltered, in the small farming and military town of Yuma, Arizona. When the AIDS epidemic first surfaced in the early '80s, the terror of the disease was my biggest fear. I stayed out of trouble as a child, was a gifted classical pianist and had hopes and dreams of making my mark in the world.

Gina Marie Brown 19 Years Ago Today, "I Was Given What I Thought Was a Death Sentence" (Posted April 4, 2013)
By Gina Marie Brown

On this day in 1994 ... I walked into Charity Hospital's obstetric clinic, made my way to the nurse's office, and immediately knew something wasn't right; she wouldn't look at me. And then she said, "You have AIDS and you're going to die."

It was devastating, embarrassing, and heartbreaking. I'd finally gotten my life on track. I was so afraid of dying AND of having anyone find out my HIV status. I told my mother, sisters, and my children's father ... and no one else. I was also afraid because I was pregnant at this time.

Related Stories

Read more personal accounts of being diagnosed with HIV.
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

This article was provided by TheBody.


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