Life After HIV

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man holding HIV red ribbon

If you’re newly diagnosed with HIV, you may feel hopeless. HIV can be judged negatively by society, which might make you feel isolated because of the stigma, but it doesn’t have to. HIV isn’t the end of your life. If you have been diagnosed with HIV, there is lots of life to be had and lots of experiences to create. HIV isn’t the end of your life, it’s not a death sentence. It’s just another part of your life you will have to manage. HIV can be managed like other chronic illnesses.

No matter what way you got HIV, there is life after HIV. Medications are coming out every year and life expectancy is at an all-time high. HIV can be lived with and you can have a long, happy, healthy, life.

Here are some ways life goes on after a diagnosis of HIV.

#1 Healthier

Many times when we have health, we can take it for granted. We may abuse it by not sleeping well, eating well, being hard on our joints, assuming that our joints will never experience pain. When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may have to change your lifestyle. This will prompt you to be more aware of your health.

With a diagnosis of HIV, you may find yourself happier and healthier than before. There will be many doctors appointments you have to keep track of, pills to take, and some less-than-ideal conversations ahead of you but all of this is very manageable. And your life is not over.

To avoid progression of the illness, you may exercise more, eat better, and sleep better. All of this would never have happened had you not contracted HIV. Now, of course, that’s not to say that you want HIV but a benefit of this illness is that you will be forced to be more aware of your health.

#2 Doctors

HIV, medicines, syringeAfter finding out that you are positive, you will likely be in a state of shock. This could last for weeks or months or maybe even longer. So when you go to your first visit to address your HIV, you want to bring along a notepad or ask your doctor to record the events so you can revisit later. Doctor’s appointments are extremely important to your health, they’ll keep your condition under control and your quality of life high.

The first doctor’s visit may be very intimidating as you try to grapple with this new condition in your life. You’ll want to find an understanding, patient, doctor who is more than willing to provide any information you need.

Whether this doctor is your general physician or a doctor at an LGBT Center in your area, you’ll want to find a doctor that is familiar with HIV and all of its associated aspects.

When you go to your doctor, it’s very important to be prepared to give blood. With HIV this will be a common occurrence and is nothing to be afraid of.

#3 Medication

Medication is a contentious issue within the HIV positive community. Some people delay taking antiretroviral drugs for long periods of time while others start immediately. The choice is yours unless your viral load is very high or your T-cell count is very low, i.e. your numbers are bad. There are two camps related to medication compliance. There are those who delay or refuse to take medication and those who swear by it.

This is a personal choice of yours and the decision is yours to make.

If medication is the route you plan to take, remember that this is a very large commitment. Medications need to be taken every day at a certain time. If you skip dosages or change the dosage amount your virus may adapt and you’ll need to be put on a more complicated regimen that may include more pills.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is designed to help you if you live poverty or don’t have insurance. This is an excellent program to ensure your health and the health of your partner if they are HIV-negative. One thing to note is that many states have a waiting list for this program.

#4 Disclosure

Even if your viral load is undetectable, you have both an ethical and legal obligation to disclose your HIV status before engaging in sex. For the safety of others, it is very important to give them a chance to decide if they would like to continue the relationship. While rejection may be very hard to take, considering their health, and preferences is extremely important. Even if you are using a condom or find that your health is very good at this moment, it’s best to be honest in the beginning. Like your health is your choice, their health is theirs.

A big consequence of not disclosing is that your partner may feel betrayed, which may lead to an end of the relationship. Being upfront and honest is very difficult, but relationships need to begin with honesty and trust.

After diagnosis, you’ll want to disclose to anyone you have had sex with in the last few months. If they are positive, this will give them a chance to seek treatment and come to terms with their new life as an HIV-positive person. As you are doing right now. Other than these people, you don’t have to tell your friends or family unless you want to.

#5 Rejection

This will happen but it isn’t the last say in your happiness. There are billions of men or women in the world and this person rejecting you is just one. A spec in the ocean of life. This person may be scared or they may not know how to approach the issue or discuss it. That’s their choice. You have one, too. Find someone else.

#6 Find “Poz” Folk

HIV positive, red ribbonDiscovering other HIV-positive people in your city, school, or workplace is a great way to fight against the isolation and fear that may be a big part of your life right now. These people can provide understanding and shared experience.

You also can forge relationships and your HIV status won’t be an issue. No disclosure, no fear.

You don’t have to be with an HIV-positive woman or man, but if you meet an HIV-negative person, it is best to disclose. Mentioned before, choice is very important in this situation.

#7 Responsibility

Having HIV can be difficult to manage, especially when you’re first diagnosed, but you want to ensure you don’t give it to anyone else. The responsibility of keeping it from your loved ones or your potential partners is yours, and it is a large responsibility. Take this seriously.

#8 Forgiveness

Accepting your life as it is now is the best way to have a life after HIV. Forgiveness for yourself and the person who gave it to you will give you the freedom to move forward, while blame and anger will block your path to happiness. There’s no changing your life, there’s only making it better than it was and preferably the best that it can be.

#9 Remain Hopeful

There’s been one man who has been functionally cured of HIV. With the advancements in medications for HIV, you can live a strong, happy, life, complete with relationships, experiences, and passions that enrich your life.

HIV isn’t the end of your story, it’s another chapter in your life. Love yourself and those around you. Find relationships and take great care of yourself.