Learning to Support Yourself
Part Three of Three in Project Inform's "After You've Tested Positive" Booklet
Some people have few problems getting their health care costs covered by private insurance, which is generally funded by your current or former employer. However, many other people living with HIV rely on public health care programs or coverage funded by federal and state governments. These include Medicaid, Medicare, the Ryan White program and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs). Some of these are guaranteed for all who qualify while others have limited funding and may or may not be available in your area.
It is likely you can find some type of health care that you can afford or that's free of charge. The difficult part can be locating resources and piecing together affordable care by combining several services. A more thorough discussion can be found in Project Inform's publication, HIV Health & Wellness: Considering treatment and your health care.
A qualified benefits counselor can help you figure out a way through this maze, as can some case managers and social workers. Check with your local AIDS service organization, or Project Inform toll-free at 1-866-448-4636.
Telling others about your status can feel scary, but it may also help you cope. People who share this news may enjoy better health, probably due in part to relief of the stress of keeping their status a secret. Being open about your status with your medical providers can help ensure you get the most appropriate care.
You don't have to tell everyone -- or even anyone -- and you don't have to do it all at once. But finding people who can support you will go a long way to helping you stay healthy and improve your quality of life. Choose carefully who you want to tell and who you think will respond well to the news. Take your time when planning who to tell.
For some people, telling others can mean racing risk of abandonment or even violence. If you fear telling those close to you, find a support group, a therapist or a domestic violence assistance group to work through those relationship issues before you make final decisions.
Think about what you would do if your disclosure doesn't go well. Some people, even some health providers, may not react well. Be prepared for various reactions from those you tell and be ready to seek support if you need it.
Although many services exist for people with HIV -- such as medical care, support groups, peer mentors, and referrals to housing and other resources -- it's up to you to engage with them and decide if they're right for you. You may have to keep working at it because the first contact may not be the right fit.
Many people seek peer and other types of support during the first few months or years after their diagnosis. This can be a helpful way to get used to the new "surroundings," so to speak. Many people find this is a temporary but important way to seek help until they feel secure about what is needed. You may even find someone who becomes a friend or confidante because they've had similar experiences.
Case Manager/Social Worker/Benefits Counselor
Internet Chat Rooms, Blogs and "Ask the Experts"
Telling your co-workers or employers about your HIV status is a different type of disclosure and should be considered carefully before making decisions. Investigate your options with legal experts before disclosing your status at work.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers do not have the right to ask about a disability or your health before hiring you. People living with HIV/AIDS are protected under the ADA, which means your employer can't discriminate against you and must reasonably accommodate your physical needs at work. In order to get accommodations, you will need a letter from your doctor, but it can state that you have a chronic condition as opposed to having HIV or AIDS.
Some people who are concerned about testing for HIV fear that if they're HIV-positive they may experience discrimination. However, important federal and state laws prohibit both the disclosure of medical information and discrimination against HIV-positive people. The laws are not perfect and are interpreted differently in each state, so it's important to understand the limits of the laws in your area or jurisdiction.
Some states and foreign countries have laws that make it a crime to knowingly transmit HIV to someone else. While these laws are clearly meant for people who try to infect another person, they have been used to threaten or prosecute others. In fact, some laws state that transmission doesn't have to actually happen for possible prosecution. Though these cases are few, they're still a concern. It's important to know the laws where you live.
This article was provided by Project Inform. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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