"Being diagnosed HIV positive is not the end of the world. It's the beginning of a brand-new world.
No matter how strong you might be, an HIV diagnosis is something that nobody should face alone. Make sure you connect with a community of HIV-positive people. It's one of the best steps you can take to begin to solve both the emotional and practical problems of living with HIV.
Chicago native Greg Braxton is the perfect example of someone who successfully reached out and got the services he needed. An alcoholic and a crack cocaine addict for 27 years, when he left drug treatment for the last time almost 10 years ago, he knew he needed to stay away from his old neighborhood. He found a place that offered day programs for people with HIV and he applied for supportive housing. He said it was a critical stepping-stone. "I doubt if I would have made it, if I had gone straight to independent living, because I wouldn't have any support or any restraints. And I probably would have relapsed."
START BY CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL HIV/AIDS ORGANIZATION.
Knowing when you need help is vital. An HIV/AIDS organization can be a lifeline. Many organizations have case managers who can help you move forward on many of your health care issues. You'll find most or all of the following at HIV/AIDS organizations:
- HIV support groups
- Mental health and substance abuse counseling
- Case managers who can connect you to government aid you may need, such as Medicaid, disability insurance or medication assistance
- Expert information on HIV and nutrition, fitness and other issues
- HIV treatment information and adherence workshops to help with taking HIV medications
- HIV prevention counseling, safe sex workshops and free condoms
Most big cities have several HIV/AIDS organizations geared to meet the needs of different populations.
For help in finding a local organization, click here or call the CDC Health Line at 1-800-232-4636.