If you’ve just found out you’re HIV-positive, you may feel overwhelmed, fearful, and alone. Know that you are far from alone. Countless people and resources are available to help you.
It may help to remember that being HIV-positive is not the virtual death sentence it once was. HIV can lead to AIDS, but being HIV-positive does not necessarily mean that you already have AIDS. New treatment regimens have turned being HIV-positive into a chronic condition for many people. With a healthy lifestyle and the right medical care, many HIV-positive people are living long and productive lives.
Still, learning that you are HIV-positive may leave you reeling. Where should you turn for help? Who should you tell? What should you do first? Here are a few guideposts to help you through this difficult time. After finding out you have HIV, fear about the future may make it hard for you to take action. But once you know you’re HIV-positive, see a doctor or healthcare worker with experience in HIV as soon as you can. Don’t put it off. Your doctor or Health4Men nurse will run tests to see how well your immune system is working, how fast the HIV is progressing, and how healthy your body is overall. With this and other information, these HIV healthcare workers plan when and how to begin treatment. ARV drugs can often slow or prevent the progression of HIV.
Learn What It Means to Be HIV-Positive
Information is power, especially when that information can save your life. These steps will allow you to take an active role in your care:
Because you’re HIV-positive, you can pass the virus to others, even if you don’t feel sick. This can happen through unprotected anal sex if you are the top (insertive partner). You can protect others by using condoms.
If you are the bottom (the partner that gets penetrated), your risk of passing the virus onto your partner is less than being the top. By being on ARV treatment (as the bottom) your risk of passing the virus onto a partner is significantly reduced.
If you are in a relationship where your partner is negative and you are positive, your partner could consider going onto PrEP. Find out more here
If you just found out you are HIV-negative, it can be a huge relief. You have made an important choice to take care of yourself by getting tested. You should be proud of that.
Remember that it can take a couple of weeks (and in rare cases up to several months) for an HIV test result to present as positive after infection. This period of time is called the “window period”. If you have had any possible exposures to HIV in the previous few months, you should get tested again in 3 to 6 months to be completely sure that you do not have HIV, and continue to protect yourself in the meantime.
Testing negative for HIV does not mean that you are immune to the virus, so it is important to continue protecting yourself.
There are several things you can do to keep protecting your health, now that you know you are negative:
If you have not already seen a doctor (or visited a Health4Men testing centre) regularly, start now. It is always a good idea to have frequent checkups, and your doctor or healthcare worker will have a medical history of your health to refer to if you get sick.
It is also possible to take ARV medication called PrEP every day to prevent HIV infection. Talk to your medical provider about this.
Familiarise yourself with a combination of prevention strategies on the Health4Men site
Often gay men only actively seek information about HIV once they have received a positive diagnosis. Learn as much as you can about HIV so that you can make informed decisions about the sexual lifestyle you want and become part of the new heroes who actively fight stigma around HIV-negative men.