Coping with HIV/AIDS: Your Next Few Steps to “Normalcy”

Coping with HIV/AIDS: Your Next Few Steps to “Normalcy”

Learning and finding out that you’ve been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is not an easy way to move forward to. It can be overwhelming to the very least and it’s hard to become optimistic for the future to come.

Getting diagnosed with HIV is a serious matter that will most likely change your lifestyle but it’s not a death sentence unlike what others may think. It’s something that you can deal with in the same manner that people with other kinds of disease and illness deal with theirs.

Overwhelming emotional reactions are normal; however, it’s important to remember that these feelings won’t last forever. Here are some ways to help you cope after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and how can you move forward from it:

Remind Yourself That It Isn’t The End

The first few things that some people will immediately think after their diagnosis is the fatality of it. Medical advancements enabled our healthcare providers to continuously treat HIV on their patients so being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t equate to death.

Most people with HIV live long and healthy lives. Back in the late 1990s, the total life expectancy for a 20-year-old person living with HIV was 39 years but today, it’s dramatically improved. The total life expectancy for the same age bumped to about 70-80 years old. Roughly the same life expectancy as HIV-negative people.

Fully Understand Your Diagnosis

It’s important that you seriously talk to your healthcare provider about fully understanding your diagnosis and the implications of it.

When your provider tells you that you have HIV, it means that you’re infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. A positive diagnosis of HIV doesn’t mean that you have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.

An HIV test doesn’t tell you if you have AIDS. The difference between HIV and AIDS is that AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection where the body’s immune system is greatly damaged because of the virus.

Upon receiving a positive result for HIV, your healthcare provider will require you to run other tests so they could see the status of your overall health and keep an eye on your immune system.

Educate Yourself About HIV and Its Misconceptions

HIV is a medical topic that unfortunately gets miseducated a lot. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it and it’s important that you get rid of those because the more you learn about HIV, the better your health choices will be.

Start at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Check with yourself on the things that you want to know and the things that you might not be ready to think or talk about. There is a whole lot of information online about HIV but remember to always do your research on reliable sources.

The website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great start for knowing all the HIV basics.

Find Support and Work With Your Healthcare Provider

The key to managing HIV and coping with it is to undergo treatments immediately.

The decision when or whether to start treatment for HIV is entirely up to you and you should make this decision with the help of your healthcare provider. It’s recommended to start HIV treatment as soon as possible after your diagnosis to immediately prevent the damage that HIV causes in many parts of the body.

Antiretroviral therapy or AT is an HIV treatment that’s strongly recommended for people with HIV. If you need help in making your decision, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs consolidated an article for treatment decisions regarding HIV.

Moving Forward

It’s important that you understand that life doesn’t end with a positive diagnosis of HIV. With proper treatment and management, people living with HIV usually live long healthy lives. It’s a manageable disease that can be taken care of if you take responsibility for your own health.

Finding support is essential to help you through the physical and emotional issues that you might encounter. Deciding to tell others that you’re diagnosed with HIV is a crucial personal choice too. There’s a big difference that can go either way when it comes to your relationships and the way you cope. However, there’s no hurry to tell the people around you right away. Talking with a professional like a counselor will greatly help you when it comes to dealing with the decisions and having healthy coping mechanisms.

Written by Mark Riegel, MD

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