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Creed -- You Are Not Alone
There are nearly a million of us in the United States. Don't isolate yourselves.

By Jim Lewis and Michael Slocum

December 31, 1982 (Revised January 12, 2009)

Maybe you have tested HIV-positive very recently; maybe you've known it for some time, but this is the first time you've reached out for information or support. You need to know that you are not alone. There are an estimated 1 million HIV-positive people in the United States.

Testing positive for HIV does not mean that you have AIDS, but HIV is probably the greatest threat to your life you have ever faced. This virus may remain inactive in your body for a long time, but it may not. If you are healthy now, you may still go on to develop some sort of health problems related to HIV. You may develop AIDS. There remain many uncertainties surrounding HIV, and though there is currently no "cure" for HIV infection, there are treatments. You need to learn what information is available and make informed choices about your health.

Many HIV-positive people now live fulfilling and happy lives. Many are healthy and show no symptoms of disease. Many choose to take treatments and drugs that promise to lengthen their lives. So, as serious as this is, there is hope. You do not have to look at testing HIV-positive as if you've been given a death sentence.

It's a good thing you found this out. As upsetting as testing positive may have been for you, you are better off knowing, so you can learn about HIV and decide what you want to do about it. The fact that you cared enough about yourself to get the HIV test and the fact that you are reading this magazine show that you are concerned about your health. So give yourself some credit. You have taken important first steps to take care of yourself, and you should be glad about it.

Years ago, those who tested HIV-positive had few places to turn for support. These people felt like they were hanging in limbo. Fortunately, much has changed. We know more about HIV now and many organizations have formed around the world to offer support and information to people living with this virus. Many have already faced the questions inherent in living with HIV, and many will follow. You don't have to face this by yourself. There are lots of hands reaching out to assist you.

Michael Slocum and Jim Lewis were editors of Body Positive. HIV/AIDS organizations around the world have reprinted "You Are Not Alone" in their own languages.

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