Regina Brandon, Los Angeles, Calif., diagnosed in 1986
My tips for the newly diagnosed are: Keep your head up! HIV is not a punishment.
There's life after HIV! Don't let it monopolize your life! It's very important that you learn to love yourself. Live, because no one else can or will do you better than you can do you. There is no concern for blame -- the concern is, "How do I live?"
Also, make sure that you understand what you're being told when you receive your diagnosis. I'm so glad they aren't allowed to give you that news over the phone anymore, because you really need to get them to sit down with you and make sure you understand what that test result means before you leave.
I've seen my hospital records from 1986 now, and it was written that I was HIV positive. But I didn't leave knowing what the things the doctor told me really meant. It took me four years to get that information straight, and during that time I was doing dangerous things with people. I'm grateful that I didn't infect anyone, but I would have to say I wouldn't feel totally at fault -- I didn't know I had HIV.
I believe each person is responsible for themselves. If your partner won't use protection, you can.
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