Learning that you are HIV-positive can be one of the most difficult experiences you can go through in life. You may feel scared, sad or even angry. But it is okay, and a completely natural part of coping with something that can be life changing.
However, HIV doesn’t have to stop you from living a long, happy and fulfilling life. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to live as long as the average person – sometimes longer. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be living with HIV. Ultimately, everyone’s lives are different – how you cope when you were diagnosed with and living with HIV.
One of the most effective ways to deal with hearing or finding out about your HIV status is to learn all you can about your diagnosis and HIV itself. Most important is to know that there is a huge difference between HIV and AIDS. Most people seem to confuse those two terms. An HIV-positive diagnosis does not mean you have AIDS, nor are you destined to develop life threatening disease or opportunistic infection.
Depression is common even amongst those with HIV. When you are depressed, it is harder to make decisions and to care for your overall heath, which is key to managing your HIV status. Having intense sadness and grief after knowing you are HIV positive is common, understandable and is okay. You must allow yourself to work through those feelings, with the help of a professional like a social work. Being HIV positive can sometimes make you feel isolated and alone. Reaching out to others is important to help maintain a positive outlook.
We’ve come a long way when it comes to the social stigma of HIV, but there is still a long way to go. You may be surprised that your HIV status brings up a host of your own biases regarding HIV as well. This isn’t uncommon, so allow yourself some time for introspection. Remind yourself that you are not to blame for your status. Another worry often is when or if to disclose your status, and to whom. Take some time to prepare yourself, and decide how much information you’re willing to disclose if people start asking questions. Know that you are under no obligation to disclose your status to anyone if you are not ready or don’t want to especially in places like work. No one needs to know your HIV status but yourself.
Having a strong support network can be incredibly important to your emotional well-being. Understanding friends and family are great allies. Being able to talk with people who are in your shoes, who truly get what you are going through can also be incredibly helpful and things like support groups can be really beneficial.
Those are the three basic things that one who has recently found out they are HIV positive can look into and so it can help them learn how to live and cope with HIV. HIV is not a death sentence and is absolutely not going to give you any limitations. If you don’t believe me, connect to other young women living with HIV – they can tell you.
Thank you for your generous support for the ICW Young Women's Media Team.