Take Care of Yourself
November 27, 2017
Once you receive a diagnosis of HIV, the most important next step is to get into medical care. Getting into medical care and staying on treatment will help you manage your HIV effectively and make decisions that can keep you healthy for many years.
Pay attention to your mental health. Receiving a diagnosis of HIV can be a life-changing event. People can feel many emotions -- sadness, hopelessness, and even anger. But having HIV is by no means a death sentence. Allied health care providers and social service providers, often available at your health care provider's office, will have the tools to help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis and begin to manage your HIV.
Talking to others who have HIV may also be helpful. Find a local HIV support group. Learning about how other people living with HIV have handled their diagnosis may be helpful. You can also view stories and testimonials of how people are living well with HIV on this website and on the website for CDC's Act Against AIDS Campaign Let's Stop HIV Together website.
If you received your diagnosis in a health care provider's office or a non-clinical setting (health fair, community organization, or testing event), you have probably received a lot of information about HIV, its treatment, and how to stay healthy. Give yourself time to absorb the information and get into care and on treatment right away. If you do not have much information, this website is a good place to begin to familiarize yourself with HIV.
If you received a diagnosis by taking an HIV test at home, it is important that you have confirmation to make sure you really do have HIV. The manufacturers of the two FDA-approved HIV home tests can help you with the next steps. Both manufacturers provide confidential counseling and, depending on the test you used, will give you either a referral to get a follow-up test or will perform a follow-up test on the blood sample that you submitted.
If you have a primary health care provider (someone who manages your regular medical care and annual tests), that person may have the medical knowledge to treat your HIV. If not, he or she can refer you to a health care provider who is a specialist in providing HIV care and treatment.
The American Academy of HIV Medicine's Referral Link, or the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator on AIDS.gov can help you find an HIV expert. These resources provide search directories for HIV providers organized by city/state, as well as a list of services provided and other criteria. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Directory can also help you access medical care.
It is important that you start medical care and begin HIV treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they've had the virus or how healthy they are. Starting ART slows the progression of HIV and helps protect your immune system. ART can keep you healthy for many years, and greatly reduces your chance of transmitting HIV to sex partners if medicines are taken consistently and correctly.
Many people living with HIV who do not seek medical care eventually receive an AIDS diagnosis. This happens because, if left untreated, HIV will attack the immune system and allow different types of life-threatening infections and cancers to develop. A cure for HIV does not yet exist, but ART can dramatically prolong the lives of many people living with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others.
Find A Health Care Team
Finding a health care team that is knowledgeable about HIV care is an important step in managing your care and treatment.
Who Should Be on My Health Care Team?
Your HIV health care provider should lead your health care team. That person will help you determine which HIV medicines are best for you, prescribe antiretroviral therapy (ART), monitor your progress, and partner with you in managing your health. He or she can also help put you in touch with other types of providers who can address your needs. Your primary HIV health care provider may be a medical doctor (MD or DO), nurse practitioner (NP), or a physician assistant (PA).
In addition to your HIV health care provider, your health care team may include other health care providers, allied health care professionals, and social service providers who are experts in taking care of people living with HIV. These professionals include:
Health care providers:
Allied health care professionals:
Social service providers:
How Can I Work With My Health Care Team To Protect My Health?
HIV treatment is most successful when you actively take part in your medical care. That means taking your HIV medications every time, at the right time, and in the right way; keeping your medical appointments; and communicating honestly with your health care provider. This can be achieved when you:
You can also view stories and testimonials on this website of how people living with HIV are working with their health care team to stay in care and on treatment.
[Note from TheBody.com: This article was originally published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 15, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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