Getting Through That Diagnosis
Last updated: January 2021
The shock. Finding out that you're diagnosed with HIV can be frightening: you feel lost about which way to turn, who to talk to, who do you tell. Many just want to crawl under a rock or in a corner somewhere and never come out. You don’t want to be seen by anyone and, for that matter, you don’t want to even look at yourself. You're angry at the person who transmitted HIV to you or can be confused by not knowing who you contracted the virus from.
New HIV diagnosis: what to know
What to do? Start care as soon as possible
The first thing you need to do is get into care as soon as possible. This is something that is imperative to your health because being on HIV medication will start you on a path of living a long life, which so many people diagnosed don’t see at the beginning of their diagnosis. A lot of people get in care right away, but then fall out of care as soon as their next prescription for medication is due.
Staying in care is very hard for some and I feel it's part of the denial process. Who wants to believe that they are now going to have to live their entire life being diagnosed with HIV? Taking the medication will confirm you are now living with HIV.
Find support through someone you trust
The second thing that needs to be done is finding that family member, close friend, counselor, or HIV community that can help you get through it; and trust me, there are people who can help you. If you don’t feel it’s best to tell a close friend or family member, then please find an AIDS Service Organization (ASO) somewhere and they will help you get into counseling.
I have had people say counseling doesn’t work or that it’s for a person who is weak. Guess what? I used to think the same way. I never wanted to feel like I was weak or needed anyone because I was so used to being the strong woman. I have learned that we can’t always be strong and if we need to ask for help, then ask. Asking will be the only way to get over what you're going through; not talking about it will kill you inside.
The HIV community is here for help and support
The HIV community is larger than you may think it is. And, if counseling isn’t for you, then find others who are diagnosed that are involved with an ASO you can hang out with. That can be going to lunch as a group, volunteering, mentoring for you over the phone, etc. Staying connected with people who have been where you are can bring comfort and support for you. I don’t want you to feel that the feeling you have will never disappear because they will. You have to be willing to do the things necessary so you can get back to smiling again.
If you are working, keep your job. And if you are not employed, find something to keep you busy daily. When you can stay with a routine, it tends to stop the thoughts of what you are going through.
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