You’ve just found out you’re HIV positive, but you’re not alone. In 2016, 39,782 people in the United States were diagnosed with an HIV infection. Living with HIV can be challenging at times. Here are some tips that may help:
1. Stay connected
You are strong, but you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to those who want to help. Emotional support can come from many different people and sources
- Support groups
- AIDS service organizations (ASOs)
- Therapy or counseling
- Case managers/social workers
- Religious or spiritual groups
- Support programs for substance or alcohol use
2. Communicate openly and honestly with your doctor
When you talk to your doctor, be honest about your sexual activities and your drug use. Certain behaviors may put you at risk of getting other diseases and affect your overall health. Remember, your doctor is not there to judge. He or she needs to have the most accurate information to manage your care.
3. Get into care
Getting into medical care as soon as possible after your diagnosis and sticking with your treatment can make a big difference in how effectively you manage your HIV. The choices you make can help you stay healthy for many years to come.
4. Learn about your benefits
What’s in your health insurance policy? Do you know if there are any limits on medical services and pharmacy use? There are many benefits that are available to HIV-positive people. Check with your local HIV or AIDS service organization for help applying for these and other benefits as they differ from state to state.
Here are some of the most common benefits:
- ADAP and ADAP Plus (AIDS Drug Assistance Program)—These are state-run HIV-drug assistance programs
- Programs from Housing & Urban Development (HUD)—including Section 8, a federal housing assistance program
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD)—SSD is the federal insurance for disabled people who have a work history and who qualify
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—SSI is a federal program, run by the Social Security Administration, that pays a monthly benefit for people who are disabled and did not work enough to be eligible for SSD, or did not work at all and have limited income and resources
- Short-term and long-term disability
5. Take your medications every day
Most people do not like to take medicine, but here are some things you should know. HIV medications reduce the amount of HIV in your body. Skipping your medicine, even once in a while, allows the HIV virus to grow quickly. Keeping your HIV levels low is important for your health and reduces your risk of passing HIV to others. So be sure to take your HIV medicine as prescribed. Sticking to your HIV therapy schedule is one of the best ways to fight the virus.
6. Traditional remedies can be good for you, if used right
Your loved ones may have recommended herbs or supplements for different types of health problems, which may have worked. But that doesn’t mean that those remedies can replace the treatment prescribed by your doctor. Make sure you tell your doctors about everything you’re taking because some remedies can interact with your HIV treatment.
7. Practice safer sex
It’s important to take actions that lower the risk of giving HIV to your partner. If you’re on HIV medicines take them exactly as your doctor has directed. Use a latex or polyurethane condom every time. It doesn’t just help protect your partner. It also helps protect you against other sexually transmitted infections. No protection method is 100% effective against transmission of STIs, including HIV. Condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STI.
8. Know your legal rights
Living with HIV may present challenges, including employment, housing, and medical care, among other things. Know your legal rights. Contact your local HIV/AIDS service organization for more information.
9. Decide who to tell and when
Your sexual and needle-sharing partners should be told of your HIV status so they can take actions to protect themselves. Health care and HIV-related service providers need to know too, so they can provide the right care and support. You should consider telling close friends or family members, because they can help you in times of need. Give some thought to how you will handle this conversation.
There is support available for when you are ready to disclose your status. Start with your local HIV/AIDS service organization.
10. Challenge yourself to make healthier lifestyle choices
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, drugs, or alcohol, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are many treatment options and services available to you. Contact your AIDS Service Organization.