I’m HIV positive: What do I do now?
If you've just found out you're HIV positive, you may feel overwhelmed, scared and alone. However you are far from alone. Countless people and resources are available to help you and the estimated 84,000 HIV-positive diagnosed people living in the UK today.
It may help to remember that being HIV positive is not the virtual death sentence it once was. HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), but being HIV positive does not necessarily mean that you already have AIDS. New treatment regimens have turned being HIV positive into a chronic condition for many people. With a healthy lifestyle and the right medical care, many HIV-positive people are living long, productive lives.
Of course, learning that you are HIV positive may leave you reeling. Where should you turn for help? Who should you tell? What should you do first? Here are a few guidelines to help you through this difficult time.
See a doctor immediately
Fear about the future may make it hard for you to take action. But once you know you're HIV positive, see a doctor with experience in HIV and AIDS as soon as you can. Don't put it off. Your doctor will run tests to see how well your immune system is working, how fast the HIV is progressing and how healthy your body is overall. With this and other information, your doctor can work with you to develop the best treatment plan, including when and how to begin treatment. HIV drugs can often slow or prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. Left untreated, though, HIV can lead to severe illness and death.
Learn what it means to be HIV positive
Information is power, especially when that information can save your life. These steps will enable you to take an active role in your care.
- Read about HIV in other sections of this website.
- Seek information from government or non-profit educational organisations with a focus on HIV and AIDS.
- Learn about both experimental and standard HIV treatments, as well as their side effects.
- Talk with others who have been diagnosed as being HIV positive.
Seek HIV-positive support services
A wide range of people can help provide you with the emotional and physical support you may need to cope with your diagnosis. Seek the help you need - whether it's getting a lift when you visit your doctor or simply finding a sympathetic ear. Here are some steps you can take straight away:
- Ask your doctor about local HIV/AIDS support groups. Or, ask for a referral to a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker.
- Find message boards or chat rooms online. Discuss with your doctor the information you get from these sources. Some are accurate; some are not.
- Find a hotline by looking online or in the phone book. The hotline can provide you with practical advice or emotional support over the phone. They can also refer you to local HIV/AIDS self-help organisations.