For most people, the hardest part of adjusting to life with HIV isn't the physical issues -- it's the emotional ones. HIV treatment has changed so drastically in recent years that the medical side of HIV has become much easier to tackle in most parts of the world. Newer HIV meds have increasingly few side effects, people on HIV treatment may live just as long as their HIV-negative counterparts, and many people need only take medications once or twice a day to keep HIV in check for many years. Yet for all of the advances in science and medicine, the stigma surrounding HIV persists. For this reason -- and because, let's face it, HIV still is a serious disease to have -- coping with your diagnosis can be areal challenge.
If you're dealing with the emotional aspects of finding out you're HIV positive, here are some important things to keep in mind -- and resources that can help as you adjust to living with HIV.
You are not alone. Millions of people all over the world, of different ages, races, genders and ethnicities, have also experienced what you're going through. Take strength in those numbers and use their courage to inspire you.
Stress and anxiety are real, but beatable. They happen to plenty of people. Don't be afraid to turn to others -- a counselor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist -- for help.
Connect with others. In this day and age, the support you need is rarely farther away than the click of a button!
Depression is common -- and treatable. Be aware of the symptoms -- and the steps you can take to emerge into a happier frame of mind.
Sleep soundly. A good night's sleep may be an elusive dream for many people living with HIV, but there are ways to make restful sleep a reality.
Tips on Telling Others You're Positive
Damaries Cruz, Diagnosed in 1991
"You've got to get to know the person at least a little bit and feel if it's worth it for you to tell them that you are HIV positive. But if you are going to be intimate, then you definitely have to tell them you're positive. It depends on you. If you like this person and you think they're educated enough, you should tell them."
Brian Datcher, Diagnosed in 1996
"It's a tricky thing. When it comes to me professionally disclosing, I don't have any problem with that at all.
When it comes to being intimate with someone and intimate issues, that tends to be a little sticky. Sometimes there are people that you meet that you may have feelings for or emotions. They may not be HIV positive, but they're not asking the right questions, so I like to be honest with myself. I like to let people know what they're getting into."
For more technical tips on disclosure, you can check out this helpful guide to telling others, from AIDS InfoNet.
Visit TheBody.com's Ask the Experts Section on Mental Health and HIV.