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‘I’m HIV Positive, Now What?’
For some getting infected with HIV seems as bad as being diagnosed as a diabetic. For others, it’s devastating health news. Either way, it’s critical to know what it means to be HIV positive and how to access care for yourself in your community. Being HIV-positive means that it is possible to pass the virus along to sexual partners. If you are female, you could also pass it along to your unborn child.
There is no cure for HIV. It is a serious, infectious disease that can lead to death if it isn’t treated. But remember HIV is preventable.
So take action and get informed. The CDC hotline phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) and you can also dial the AIDS Info. phone line at 1-800-HIV-0440 (448-0440) for detailed HIV information and resources. Being diagnosed with HIV does’nt have to be tragic. Here are five critical first steps to managing a new HIV diagnosis.
- Don’t get emotionally overwhelmed. This is life-changing health news but you have life-enhancing options. Stay calm and rational.
- Identify your questions, concerns, etc. You’ll have some time between when you are diagnosed and when visit with an HIV specialist. Write out a list of questions about your new diagnosis, specify any concerns you need addressed.
Making a list is a good way to organize your thoughts. No question is too silly or remote–ask your provider everything.
- Understand your new diagnosis. Take some time to understand what it means to be “HIV-positive.” Visit reputable health websites, read printed materials, talk with healthcare providers, etc.
- Find support. Who do you lean on in your life? Who’s support is key? Find support among friends, family, or members of your community. Look to community resources and professional organizations that offer support groups for newly diagnosed people, one-on-one counseling, peer counselors, or health educators.
- Find a care provider. Your medical care provider will be the primary person who partners with you to manage your HIV care. It’s important to be comfortable with him/her and That person will be responsible for monitoring your laboratory results, working with you to develop a proper treatment plan, advising you on health-related matters, and caring for your general health and well-being.
This clinician, usually a doctor or nurse practitioner, will be your partner in your healthcare. It is important to maintain an open and honest dialogue with your care provider. Sometimes a care provider will be recommended to you at the time of your diagnosis, or you will receive a referral from the place that conducted your HIV test. In some cases, you may need or want to find a provider on your own.
Lastly, begin thinking about who you might want to disclose to. Be careful and intentional because you can never ‘un-disclose.’ It can be one of the hardest parts about managing a new diagnosis of HIV. It’s important to remember that you do not need to tell everyone all at once, and that there are systems in place to help you. Ask your local health department or physician for details. HIV is preventable.