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How to Overcome Fear and Shame

When That HIV Test Comes Back Positive

Summer 2001

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

After obtaining the HIV positive test result, nearly everyone will experience these two feelings: fear and shame. Some people may not be very familiar with these feelings while others may be painfully familiar with them. I think it varies depending on our own life experiences. Many HIV-positive diagnosed women have been challenged to analyze our feelings to become more aware of them. The first thing many of us feel when we receive an HIV positive test result is "fear."

Many misconceptions and issues may already be in our minds, in regards to HIV/AIDS. For example, AIDS equals death, sickness, rejection, hostility from others, stigma and judgement (and many more).

Many of us feel shame because we are made to believe that we must have done something wrong or something immoral in order to be HIV infected.

Since we're already feeling shame and fear, this brings up other feelings inside of us. For example, anger, anxiety, helplessness, and sorrow are all very common with a diagnosis of HIV.

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HIV/AIDS means many different things to every person. Information about HIV was not an interesting learning topic for me. Like most people, I didn't care about it, I didn't want to know. Of course, because I felt that I was not at risk.

Who wants to be HIV positive? I don't know anyone who has tested HIV positive who actually wants to have this disease. I don't know anyone who has tested HIV negative, who wants to have this virus either. I always ask this question of every person when I do prevention trainings. I have asked HIV negative and positive people, and the fact is, that I have not found one individual that would answer "Yes, I do want HIV."

Some HIV-diagnosed women, whether they are newly diagnosed or have been living with HIV for many years, may still be experiencing shame and fear and do not know how to feel better, nor can they overcome these feelings. They may need extra support from their peers or they may need professional therapy.

I called one of Women Alive's mental health consultants (Renee Mosley) to obtain some information about these feelings. Her advice was to recognize that every person is different. The levels of fear and shame may be related to our life experiences, and also the things we have been told since we were children. This is especially true if we have heard negative messages.

These feelings are already part of our lives in general, not just with this particular health issue, but when a woman gets an HIV-positive result, it can make these feelings greater and may be harder to overcome. In my life, I have always looked for positive advisers, and this has helped me to deal with many changes that I have experienced. HIV came into my life at a very difficult time and I was able to reach out for emotional support from my family, friends, peers and my mental health therapist. Some of you may need to observe your surroundings and find out the positive resources and people that may be available for you.

For some people it may be church, meditation, a relationship with a partner or prayer. It is different for everyone. Something else the therapist suggested was that we all have some kind of survival knowledge and some ideas about what may help us deal with difficult situations.

Some people may be in denial, and that may be a way of overcoming these feelings for them. The only concern about this is that time is a crucial player in our health when it comes to HIV. We cannot act or live for others, but I think we can take positive advice.

When you are ready, take the step forward to face these feelings and win the battle.


A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 
See Also
Day One With HIV: Finding Out Your Status, in Your Own Words
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed
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