What to Do If the Test Is Positive

The results of the HIV test are back -- and you're HIV-positive.

What should you do? There are many things that you can do to stay healthy.

Keeping Yourself and Others Healthy

Below are some ideas to help keep you healthy. However, it is also important to consider the health of others when you know you are HIV-positive. To do that, it is important to make a commitment to yourself that you will not engage in sexual activity that could infect others; strive to let potential partners know your HIV status; and understand the behaviors that can infect others with HIV. You may wish to visit our section on "Reducing the Risk of Getting HIV from Sexual Activities" and "Reducing the Risk of Getting HIV From Injection Drug Use." Taking care to protect others from HIV will make you feel good about yourself and help to support your overall sense of health and well-being.

Emotional Support

Strong emotional support can help you build good health and well-being because it addresses possible feelings of isolation or depression and helps you realize that others love and care about you regardless of HIV status. A good sense of well-being can also make it easier for you to engage in safe sex with others because, the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to care for and protect others. People have their own "families of choice" from which they receive emotional support.

Options for emotional support are:

  • friends, family, lovers, partners
  • other HIV positive people
  • one-on-one counseling
  • support groups

In general, support groups meet on a regular basis to talk about common experiences. Support groups may be "closed" (once a group is formed, no new members are accepted), or "open" / drop-in (new members are allowed to join at any time). Support groups usually have a facilitator, who may be a professional or a member of the group.

To locate an organization that provides counseling, support groups or other types of emotional support in your area you can call toll free the California AIDS Hotline at 1-800-367-AIDS or find referral information at www.aidshotline.org.

Medical Care

Once you find a doctor or clinic, your main objective is to get an evaluation of your general health and immune function. Many doctors do the following:

  • Administer lab tests to evaluate your immune system.
  • Determine if you have other diseases that might become problematic in the future, including syphilis, TB, hepatitis-B, MAI, and toxoplasmosis.

If you are already infected with one or more of these other illnesses, there may be treatments or prophylaxis available to prevent it from becoming more serious or recurring in the future. If you're not already infected, doctors may be able to prevent future infection by:

  • administering vaccines. Many HIV positive people get a hepatitis-B vaccine and bacterial pneumonia vaccines, since contracting these diseases could be dangerous for immune suppressed people.
  • prescribing antiviral treatments and protease inhibitors that can help prevent or slow the progression of HIV disease.
  • scheduling regular checkups. Checkups will likely be scheduled every three to six months. Some people need more frequent check-ups, particularly when they are starting new antiviral drugs.

To learn more about HIV treatment related issues, visit the treatment section of these pages as well as BETA, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's treatment publication.

Healthy Habits

Most doctors advise HIV-positive people to improve their everyday habits, which gives their body a better chance of staying healthy. In general:

  • eat a balanced diet
  • get plenty of sleep
  • get regular exercise
  • reduce (or stop) the intake of alcohol and recreational drugs
  • avoid smoking

Healthy habits also include safer sex and needle cleaning to avoid other diseases and potential re-infection with HIV, which may accelerate the progression of the disease and/or reduce your treatment options.