If you’ve just been diagnosed with HIV you might be feeling upset, shock or anger and might be having trouble taking in the things you’ve been told. Don't worry we're here to help.
It’s important to remember:
• Successful HIV treatment means you can expect to live as long as anyone else
• This treatment can be as simple as taking one or two pills, once a day
• Once your treatment is working properly, you may only have to see a doctor once or twice a year
• You can still have a great sex life– either with condoms, or even without once your treatment is working properly
• HIV positive parents can have HIV negative children
You might feel that your life has fallen apart and be feeling overwhelmed – but it’s possible that becoming HIV positive could only change your life by a small amount.
Most of the things people take for granted about their lives can still apply to people living with HIV. All it takes is a bit of extra care to look after yourself.
It’s really important to go to a specialist HIV service to sort out your medical care (click HIV Services on the left.)
You might not need to start treatment straight away but only an HIV doctor can work this out for you. If you were to wait until you were ill to seek medical advice it would be a lot more difficult to control your HIV and make you well.
A positive diagnosis can be quite a shock. You might begin to question your future and start re-living your past sexual behaviour. This is perfectly normal and it is natural for you to start thinking: 'What if?' and 'If only'.
It might be worth getting some help to look after your mental wellbeing and begin to adjust.
It’s really important to go to a specialist HIV service to sort out your medical care.
You can speak to staff at MOT who can support you and help you to access counselling if you want it.
Who to tell?
If you are HIV positive, choosing who to tell can be a difficult decision and it's important to think about how different people may react to being told that you have been diagnosed with HIV.
You may feel like telling people soon after you receive your HIV diagnosis - but remember that once you’ve told someone you can’t ‘un-tell’ them.
It is important to think about how different people may react to being told that you have been diagnosed with HIV.
Things to think about include:
• Why do I want to disclose my HIV status to this person?
• Are there any benefits to telling them?
• Are they good at talking about emotional issues?
• How would I like them to react ideally?
• What will I do if they don’t react in the way I expect or hope for?
• Can I trust them not to tell other people?
Telling someone that you have HIV can be a very positive experience and will hopefully mean that you have someone to offer you support.
But you have to be prepared for different reactions. Some people may become upset at your news, especially if they don’t know much about HIV. Once people realise you can lead a normal life with HIV they may be better able to support you.
Before disclosing it can be helpful to talk it over with the HIV specialist team or with a member of the MOT team.
As HIV is a virus which attacks your immune system, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are important to keep your immune system strong. It will also ensure that you’re not making it easy for a serious opportunistic infection to attack you.
If you haven’t yet started taking any kind of drugs for HIV, you can help your body by eating a varied, healthy diet and taking regular exercise. Then when the time comes to start your medication, you will be in a great position for your body to handle it.
The latest studies suggest that if someone starts treatment while their CD4 is still high they can expect to live as long as if they didn’t have HIV. This also means that you will need to consider how to manage your health into your old age, as you learn to live with the inevitable effects of ageing in addition to being HIV positive.
For more information on living well with HIV visit Terrence Higgins Trust’s website or talk to the HIV Specialist Team.