A Message for the Newly Diagnosed

If you have tested positive for HIV, it means that there is the presence of HIV in your blood. You have been exposed to the virus and the test shows that you are now living with HIV. Because our bodies can’t completely get rid of HIV, even with treatment, once you are living with HIV, you live with HIV for your entire life.

After receiving your new diagnosis, I suggest you take a deep breath. Understand you need to give yourself some time to process the news. Keeping in mind the sooner you take action, the more likely you are to have a long and healthy life.

Being newly diagnosed & starting HIV treatment

I can’t stress enough the importance of starting medical care and taking medicine to begin treating HIV as soon as possible after you have received your diagnosis. When I was diagnosed in March of 1991, I was in shock. When I went to get treatment, an adult from my neighborhood was a nurse and she was the second person I saw after entering the health department. I made up an excuse and left. I never returned. Fear and shame had me paralyzed. The only medication available was AZT. I had heard so many different things about its effects on people. I chose not to take AZT.

What is the goal of HIV treatment?

Today, there are many medicines which are called antiretroviral therapy or ART. The science of HIV tells us that by taking your medications as prescribed, it is possible to achieve viral suppression. In other words, the medications can help people living with HIV achieve an undetectable viral load. The amount of virus in the blood is so low that it can’t be measured by a test. However, being undetectable does not mean that the virus is gone.

Managing the emotions of an HIV diagnosis

With the right treatment and care, you can live a long and healthy life with HIV. If you are like me, after being diagnosed with HIV, I had so many things running through my mind. We may need to acknowledge that everyone reacts differently when they find out they are living with HIV. There are some common feelings that may include shock, anger, fear, or sadness. Many of us have questions about how we got the virus and questions about what will happen to us. I took the time to learn more about HIV and it helped answer many of my questions. Learning a bit more about HIV helped me process my feelings and, most importantly, it helped combat the feelings of isolation.

Be open with your healthcare provider

As you begin your relationship with a healthcare provider, it is best practice to be open and honest with the highs and lows of coping with your diagnosis, your sexual identity, your sexual attraction, and any other health challenges you are facing. It’s okay to say, “I have some good days and some bad days.” It’s okay to share your fears about your diagnosis, treatment, or taking medications.

Your healthcare provider is there to provide guidance

Remember, your healthcare provider can give you guidance on treatment and put you in touch with a case manager, mental health counselor, and a support group. These steps will set you on your way to having the best possible health outcomes. You can live and long and healthy life.

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