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You Have HIV ... Now What?

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

February 18, 2011

I started blogging about my personal experience being infected with HIV because I thought it might help others who have been infected or affected with HIV. I am in no way saying that everyone should be public the same way I have been, but there are other ways you can help yourself through this terrifying time.

In this entry I want to touch on what people that have been newly infected might want to explore. I may be a little harsh in my video entry but I want to make sure that it is known that I'm not a doctor and this is just my opinion about what you might want to do.

First things first: IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. You can survive and live a good long life with HIV. Just think of HIV as the dinner guest that will NOT leave the party, as irritating as that guest may be, you MUST tolerate him/her.

Now you've been crying over and over again about having HIV and I'm sure there are a lot of things going on in your mind. For example, am I going to die? ANSWER: No you are not. Can I still have children? ANSWER: Yes you can still have children. What are my friends going to say? ANSWER: If they are your TRUE friends they will stick by you. If they don't, I wouldn't call them friends at all. Friends stick by you through thick and thin. What is my family going to say? ANSWER: This is going to be different for everyone. I personally had an okay experience even though someone told my family before I did. There will be tears with family and friends but I've learned that you have to show them that you are not afraid because fear of the unknown can spread like wildfire. Show them that you are strong and I bet they will be strong with you.

Now, Step 1: Go see a doctor. This is one of your only defenses against HIV. Also by going to see your doctor he will see exactly what your counts are. By counts, I mean your Viral Load and CD4 count. The Viral Load is how much of the virus is in your blood. Your CD4 count will tell you how many helper cells you have to help your body fight HIV. These numbers are vital to let your doctor know when you might have to go on medications. Some people do not have to go on medication for years at first, and a small amount of people called "Elite Controllers" don't have to go on medication ever. Think of this as a start of a new life, and also think that this is a moment that you need to think about cherishing ever moment and everyone in your life that is positive and affirming.

When on medication, depending on how your body is dealing with the HIV, you may need to change your diet. The HIV medication may make your body go through some changes. For example, when I got on medication it elevated the level of cholesterol in my body, but also because of genetics my cholesterol is high anyway. So now I watch what I eat. I usually stay away from things that can heighten my cholesterol levels. I admit I do have the occasional cheeseburger or steak but it's my diet, and the same goes for you. Also exercise helps as well. You might want to take up Yoga, Pilates, or some other means of exercise.


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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV


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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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