Just Diagnosed With HIV
You've probably come to this page because you've found out that you have HIV and you are starting to look around for some information on what this means. You might also be wanting to know what you can do about it. You're taking the first step on the life-long journey of learning to live with HIV.
The first thing you need to know is that you are OK. You are not going to die right away. You do not have to tell everyone that you are HIV positive. But most importantly, you do not have to pretend that everything is as it was before, because it is not. Just remember, your life is not over. You have plenty of time to deal with this news.
Receiving a diagnosis of HIV changes your life forever. It is normal that you will feel a lot of different emotions as you come to accept the idea of living with HIV. How are you feeling right now? Maybe you have just found out, and you're calm. Or maybe you found out a month or two ago and were OK until someone made a thoughtless remark. Or maybe you've been drinking and partying a bit too much or have retreated into your shell, but now feel you can't do that forever.
Whatever you are feeling, it is really important to tell yourself that it's OK and to give yourself permission to feel those feelings. It's a good idea to let them out -- be angry, be sad, be confident, be calm, be afraid, be numb. If you become overwhelmed by your feelings, try to be careful not to hurt yourself or those around you. Consider getting help from professional counsellors, from friends and family, and especially from other people living with HIV. Talking about your feelings can help a lot.
You may not believe it right now, but HIV is not a death sentence. There have been significant advances in the care and treatment of HIV. People with HIV now live long, productive lives. In fact, doctors speculate that many people with HIV might live out their natural lifespan.
So, since you're likely to be around a while, you have a future. You can still have sex, you can still have meaningful relationships, you can still have a family and you can still have a career. Maybe you are thinking that there is no point in pursuing any of the goals you had before being diagnosed. Tell yourself it's OK to feel discouraged right now, but don't give up on yourself or your dreams. If you're feeling sad and hopeless or if you don't enjoy the things you normally do, and it's not going away, you might want to speak to your doctor about it. You may be experiencing depression. This is normal and there are treatments that can help you.
Are there going to be a lot of new challenges? Yes -- both health-related and social -- but there are services and individuals available to help you. There are groups called AIDS service organizations, or A.S.O.s for short, that help people with HIV, people like you. ASOs are also a good way to find other people living with HIV. You might not be ready to contact an ASO yet, and that's fine. Take your time. They will be there to help you when you are ready to talk with somebody. In the Resources section, you can find ways to get connected to an ASO in your area.
You might be feeling like you wish you had never found out about your diagnosis. It's true that it is hard to hear at first. But the fact that you have been diagnosed means that you can take steps to take care of yourself. Knowledge is power. It's a cliché, but with HIV it's true. By knowing your status, you can decide how you want to live with the virus. Maybe you won't want to know too much at first, but as time goes by, have confidence that you'll learn what you need to, and you'll find your own way of living with HIV.
This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.