If you just tested HIV positive, you are probably freaking out. The weeks and months that follow that news can be very disorienting. There are all new questions to answer for yourself. Questions about dating, whom to tell and what to do to keep yourself healthy are all new. The following are points to consider as you begin this new leg of your journey. In time you will learn to live with HIV and to have a wonderful and productive life. For now, just allow yourself to take things slowly.
1. Take a deep breath and try to relax. You have more options today than ever before. An HIV diagnosis doesn’t mean you are going to get AIDS. You have many choices and you don’t need to get sick from HIV.
2. Find your spiritual center. Some do this through prayer or visiting a church or synagogue; others through meditation, Tai Chi or yoga. Finding this center will help you make clear and rational decisions and find peace with being HIV+.
3. As an HIV+ person, you need to accept the fact that you will die someday. But that was true when you were HIV-, too. We are all going to die, and coming to terms with that fact can help you to live a more full and active life. Although it may be hard to fathom right now, HIV can be a gift rather than a burden.
4. Don’t start planning your funeral just yet. The antibody tests only tell you that you have been exposed to HIV. They do not determine the course HIV will take in your body or your overall health. Many people who test positive will never get sick.
5. Go to a doctor and get some additional blood work done. There are two basic tests that are used to determine what the virus is doing in your body. They are a CD4 count and a viral load count. These tests are only one piece of the puzzle, so try not to let low CD4s and a high viral load stress you too much. Learn more about basic HIV labs HERE.
6. Your doctor will likely want to give you a complete physical and make sure your inoculations are up to date. This is a great time to ask questions and begin the process of developing a relationship with your doctor. Let your doctor be the starting point in your journey. Research on your own, speak with other HIV+ people, and listen to your own intuition. Your doctor is there to support you, so bring your questions and information to your doctor and keep an open dialog.
7. Evaluate your lifestyle and see what areas you can change in order to support and bolster your immune system. I have posted an article to my website that offers a ten-point plan for staying healthy. It may give you some ideas about how to evaluate your lifestyle.
8. Tell family and friends at an appropriate time. Many people are going to have a difficult time with your status. Some of the people who are closest to us can react with fear, anger, and grief that trumps the intense emotions that a newly diagnosed person is going through. While it is important to let your friends and family know so that they can support you, they will need your support as much as you need theirs. Telling them at a time and in a way that will help you and support them at the same time is very important. Deciding whom to tell and when is a very personal decision, so meditate on it and tell people when you know the time is right.
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