Mark S. King, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Diagnosed in 1985
When you first get diagnosed, everyone is going to be telling you, "It's not so bad. Medicines are better than ever. It's going to be OK. There's so much that can be done for you."
While all that is true, it's also true that it is a freak out and a life-changing experience. If you need to grieve for the fact that you are no longer HIV negative and that you have had this major medical thing happen, then go right ahead. If you need to freak out, if you need to adjust to this new reality in your life, take the time to do that because it's perfectly understandable. Then move on and get started. Don't let that freeze you in your tracks.
You're going to have to find a partner in health care -- a real partner in health care. One of the big lessons that I learned with HIV -- that most of us learned -- is that it's a partnership and that doctors are not always right. A lot of times, you're the one who's got to be listening to your own body, asking questions and offering other options for yourself.
You'll know what I mean as you move through the health care system and as you start to face all of these decisions regarding when to start taking drugs and which ones you want to take and how each of them affects your body.