A Note to Teens Who Have Just Learned They Are HIV-Positive

This is an excerpt from There is Hope: Learning to Live with HIV_, 2nd Edition, written by Janice Ferri, with Richard R. Roose and Jill Schwendeman, a publication of The HIV Coalition._

If you're a teenager who's just learned you're HIV-positive, you may face some stress that adults and children don't have. You aren't little anymore, but you're not quite an adult yet, either. You may not be very comfortable with your body, your family, your friends, or your sexuality. There can be a lot of pressure, both from inside yourself and from people around you. It can be hard to relate to people you've just met, and to those who've known you a long time but aren't quite sure how to approach you now.

The news that you're HIV-positive can feel like one big thing too many on your plate. It's very common for young people who learn they are infected to try and make the news "go away" by ignoring it. It can be good not to let something get to you when you need to be busy living your life. Unfortunately, ignoring HIV can leave you feeling lonely and depressed; it can also keep you from getting medical attention that can help you live longer.

A key thing to remember is, you are not alone! There are many other people your age who are going through the same thing. Telling a friend who will respect your privacy can be a big relief. If you're not ready to tell anyone you know personally, try talking anonymously to someone at a hotline or HIV service agency, at the numbers listed throughout this book. There also are support groups out there strictly for teens or people in their 20's. They're a great place to get information, vent strong emotions, and make new friends.

It may not be as comfortable to approach an adult. However, if you do, you could be very glad you did. An older person can be your advocate, or help you solve practical problems by lending you money, giving you a ride or a place to stay, helping you find services that cater to youth, or just being there when you need to talk.

The most important thing is finding someone to hook up with, at least for basic medical care. If you're worried about the word getting around, make your contact by phone instead of in person. Make sure and ask whether you can be assured of confidentiality. Your life and future are very precious. Do something good for yourself by making that first connection.