Did You Just Test HIV Positive?
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Getting an HIV diagnosis can feel like the worst news in the world. It is common to feel anger, fear, confusion, shock, grief, depression, or other painful emotions. Even after you have known for some time and think you are coming to terms with the news, it may suddenly hit you all over again.
The first step in getting through this difficult period is to understand that these feelings are normal responses to your diagnosis. Ignoring them will not make them go away. Allow yourself to feel what is inside you. It is OK to cry if you feel like it.
Anger, fear, and sadness are emotions that most people with serious illnesses experience. You are facing the possibility of getting sick or dying. You may be scared that you will not see the children in your life grow up. Or maybe you are afraid that you will not achieve your life goals. In the beginning, it may seem that testing positive is a death sentence, but this is not true. There is life after a positive test. In fact, many people living with HIV (HIV+) lead full and healthy lives.
You may also feel that you are now damaged in some way and that no one will want to love you because you are HIV+. Or you may blame yourself for getting HIV and ask yourself, "How could I have let this happen to me?" Try to be gentle with yourself. Guilt and shame can be destructive. If possible, try to have some compassion for yourself. You have just gotten bad news and must face changes and challenges ahead. If forgiving yourself or being compassionate with yourself seem difficult, try to imagine how you would respond to a loved one whom you just learned was HIV+. Think on the love and comfort you might give that person and share some with yourself. You are just as deserving and just as capable of giving and receiving love as ever.
Being diagnosed with HIV presents many challenges. Building a support network can help you learn to cope. Take your time and do not feel that you have to tell everyone right away. It is important not to let fear of being judged cause you to isolate yourself and not talk to anyone. If it is hard to tell family and friends at first, you may want to turn to HIV organizations. For more information, see Well Project's info sheets on Disclosure and Getting Connected.
Many newly-diagnosed people want to speak with others in the same situation. This can decrease isolation and help overcome stigma. There are many AIDS service organizations (ASOs) that offer support and information to HIV+ people. ASOs are great places to find helpful, non-judgmental people to talk with, and many offer support groups. Joining a support group and talking about your feelings in a safe space may reduce fears and concerns. There are support groups offered by ASOs in many parts of the US. Click here to find an ASO. To find services across the world, visit AIDSmap's e-atlas.
Finding networks or others who are in similar situations might also help you not feel so alone. Be sure to check out The Well Project's blog, "A Girl Like Me" for first-hand accounts of HIV+ women from different parts of the world and how they each have dealt with their HIV diagnosis.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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