a woman with her fingers in her ears surrounded by a forcefield, keeping out a plus sign pattern of positive HIV test results

How Does It Look To You?

HIV does not look the same for everyone and it does not feel the same. Remembering this will help a lot of us understand more about how being diagnosed with HIV affects us all differently. Sometimes when a person is diagnosed, they don’t even realize the effect a diagnosis has on them.

Denial of an HIV diagnosis

I say this because I was one of those who did not see how bad it was affecting me. Denial is huge. When you get the results back and the words you hear are, “I am sorry, but you tested positive for HIV?” At that moment, shock hits you and emotions are all over the place to process it.

For some of us, it just does not sink in. I was tested 5 times to be sure that it was true. Trust plays a part in the medical field and so coming to grips with this was very hard. I thought I was okay three months in, but I was not because mentally I was fighting with myself to believe it.

How some people cope with denial

Some people isolate themselves and rather be alone and there are some who self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to make this reality disappear. There are some who continue to date, have relationships, and not disclose in fear of rejection, stigma, and being outted about their HIV status.

There are some who just don’t believe it all, but will continue to live their life with many issues due to denial. It's as if they get into care and are given the medication to take, then once they decide to take it, they are acknowledging the truth of being HIV positive.

We can't tell people how to feel

The internalized stigma is what is killing people with HIV. One person can be just fine with their HIV diagnosis and another will feel that their life has changed forever. So, we cannot tell someone how they should feel because it is a different feeling for all of us. But we all are living with the same damn virus, a virus that has taken so many lives over the years.

Taking back control of our lives

The hurt, resentment, trauma, fear, rejection, the loss of self-love are gone; they have disappeared. Who we once were, now shattered by three letters. How can a person get back the feeling of who they were in the days before diagnosis?

I can only say to you that the person looking back at you in the mirror is still the same you, and allowing HIV to take over your life does not have to be. Continue to live your life just as you did before you received that diagnosis. Take back control of your mental state. Open your life to feel free, because the life that we have right now is the only life. Live it with joy and happiness and take all regrets of what you are feeling away. Breathe deeply with a smile and take in that you are still alive.

There is no other way to live but to truly live!

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