A positive HIV test result means that you are HIV positive. This means the HIV virus was found in your body. Being HIV positive means that you could infect others with HIV if you have unprotected sex, so be sure to practice safe sex and share your status with any future sexual partners.
A positive result is an important medical message that may help you stay healthy and extend your life. You should contact a doctor, especially one who is experienced with treating persons who are HIV infected. You and your doctor can monitor your health and take advantage of the advances made in HIV treatment. If you learn about your status by testing, you have a chance to slow or prevent some of the possible negative health outcomes. Even if you didn't get tested, HIV would present itself at some point as an infection or damage to your immune system. And, if you wait for HIV disease to present itself, many of your best medical options would already be lost.
A positive HIV antibody test is scary news but it's not a death sentence. You will experience multiple emotions. As better therapies continue to be developed, it's entirely possible to live a normal life after testing positive. The key to living a long life with HIV is taking advantage of health care and suitable therapies.
Most testing sites provide counseling to help people handle the news. The real work, however, is up to you. Given the right attitude and the right information, most people can live for a long time. Getting informed and taking charge of your health will help you make the best of your situation.
Remember that regular blood tests that check your CD4 count and viral load can help you closely monitor your health and any possible damage from HIV or the drugs you take.
The most important point to remember is ... you don't need to tell everyone that you are HIV positive. You need to think about who needs to know and how to tell them. Blurting it out all at once is certainly one way of telling others that you're positive. But healthy disclosure is a process that may require many discussions and contemplations.
Think of disclosing your HIV as the beginning of a new dialogue with the ones you most love and trust. Not only will they learn about you through this process, but you'll learn a lot about yourself as well. The starting point may be saying "I have something to tell you-I have HIV." But chances are that isn't going to be the final word.
Setting the stage for disclosure can make a big difference. Think about where you want to tell someone that you're HIV positive-a place where you feel comfortable and safe. If possible, arrange some place safe for you to go after the initial disclosure, like a friend's house or a support group.
Consider bringing a few pamphlets about HIV or an HIV Infoline card for the person you're telling. Not only might they use these resources later, but having them helps that person know you're not alone, that there's support for you-and for them. Consider bringing someone who already knows you're living with HIV.
Remember that their first reaction is not going to be their last. Like you, those whom you love need time to adjust to this new information. Finally, be brave and proud of the decision you've made!
Telling others you're living with HIV can be scary, painful, and difficult. In the long run, it's usually not as hard as the heavy burden of secrecy. While there's no one best way, there are a few things to think about in advance that might help.
Common reasons why some people choose not to disclose is that others may find it hard to accept your HIV status; some may even discriminate against you because of it. Discrimination within one's family or friends can really hurt. Discrimination at work can hurt, too, but it is also illegal.
The pros may be that sharing your status can feel empowering and can foster a new sense of closeness among friends, family and loved ones. Not hiding your HIV status from doctors or other health care providers can help ensure that you get the most appropriate care, too. Disclosure can also reduce the risk of HIV transmission to others, and it can lead to better, healthier sexual relationships.
Remember, you don't have to tell everybody, only those whom you trust and want or need to tell. Give yourself time to determine who these people are and how you want to tell them.
Sometimes it's easiest to first disclose to someone who has been through it themselves, like a friend or family member living with HIV or members of a support group or someone who has disclosed another serious illness.
If you don't know anyone living with HIV or don't have access to a support group, calling the AIDS/STD Infoline and telling an operator you have HIV can break the ice. They are used to these kinds of calls. They won't judge you; they will understand. They can even work with you, through role playing or just by listening, to help you find the language and courage to tell others.
HIV Partner Services (HPS) is a service that helps people who are HIV positive (those living with HIV or AIDS) talk to their current or past partners, who may have been exposed to HIV. They can also help you notify anonymous partners you may have met through the internet. HPS is free, voluntary, and confidential. If you are HIV positive and are wondering how to tell your partner or are just feeling scared and wondering how to protect those that you have been with, HPS can help. They have counselors who can talk with you about ways to tell your partner about your HIV results. And it is all private and confidential. HPS will not share your personal medical, social or sexual information with anyone else.
HPS counselors will:
•· Listen to your concerns about telling your partner;
•· Be there to answer questions and to offer options;
•· Give referrals to medical care and other services;
•· Most importantly, they will respect and protect your privacy.
When it comes to disclosing your status to your partner or someone you have been with in the past, you have several options, and HPS can help you determine which choice is the best for you.
You can do it. A counselor can help prepare you to talk to your partner.
HPS can do it with you. You can choose to talk with your partner with a counselor.
HPS can do it for you. A counselor can take information you give and then someone from the health department will contact your partner and let them know of their possible exposure.
You can combine these options. You can work with the counselor to come up with a combination of ways to tell your partners.
HPS is an on-going service. If you should ever need assistance in notifying future partners of their exposure, you can access HPS again. Should your test come back positive, your local health department will contact you or you can contact HPS directly. Please call 1-800-992-4379 or 504-568-7474 to access HIV Partner Services in your area.
You do not have to tell your employer you have HIV. Confidentiality of medical information is part of your right to privacy. The only situation in which an employee may need to reveal their status is on an application for Family and Medical Leave. Even then, the information must remain in a separate, private file to which only the director of human resources or you have access. Legally, it cannot be shared with anyone else. If it is shared and discrimination results, the employee could sue the employer. If you have any questions about disclosing for employment or employee benefits purposes (like insurance, disability or medical leave), check under the legal resources section of this site and contact AIDSLaw of Louisiana.
If you have children, telling them about your or their HIV status can be even more challenging, but also rewarding. Like other touchy topics-such as bodies, puberty, and sex-discussions about HIV, be it your own or their HIV status, or HIV in general, should be age appropriate. The National Pediatric HIV Resource Center has great information for parents who need guidance on disclosure. Check out their website at www.pedhivaids.org.
Diabetes - Recent literature about diabetes in people with HIV/AIDS have conflicting messages. Some studies indicate an increased risk of diabetes mellitus (generally referred to simply as "diabetes") in people taking HAART medications, specifically protease inhibitors (PIs). Other studies indicate that nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are the problem. It is clear that traditional risk factors for diabetes, such as family history of the disease, obesity and sedentary lifestyle, play important roles in the lives of people with HIV. Other issues, such as the role of fat deposition abnormalities, HIV/hepatitis C co-infection and dyslipidemia (a metabolic disorder), require further investigation.
People with HIV can work to prevent diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and increasing physical activity. Diabetes treatment, with medicine including insulin, can be used when preventive efforts are not enough.
Smoking, HIV and HAART - Several surveys suggest that people with HIV/AIDS are more likely to smoke compared to the general population. The connection between cigarette smoking and HIV disease is not fully understood, but there is a growing body of evidence showing that smoking can hurt immune response, contribute to disease progression and increase the risk of death among HIV-positive people.
The benefits of smoking cessation among people with HIV have become increasingly clear in recent years. Researchers from the University of Texas, for example, reported in the September 2007 issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs that among 95 HIV-positive individuals enrolled in a smoking cessation study, longer smoke-free periods were associated with fewer HIV-related symptoms and improved quality of life.
The benefits of smoking cessation are clear and incontrovertible, producing immediate, short-term, and long-term health benefits.
Nutrition - One of the easiest ways to take care of yourself as you age is to maintain good nutrition. Visit an HIV nutritionist to get the most out of your food. Food provides you with many of the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy body and support your immune system. Nutritionists can help you make good food choices using the foods that you know or have heard of and by advising you about food safety. Many community-based organizations now offer HIV nutrition services.
An HIV nutritionist can help you:
• Prevent or treat wasting
• Monitor your lean muscle mass
• Manage cholesterol and triglycerides, blood sugar or liver enzymes
• Manage side effects
• Recommend vitamins and other supplements
• Clarify information and advise on herbal and alternative therapies
Exercise - Exercise is very important when you have HIV. Studies show that exercising increases your white blood cell count. It can also make you feel better by reducing stress. The three parts to fitness are:
Of the three, strength training may be the most valuable for someone with HIV. It can improve your immune system by increasing appetite, metabolism and bone density. When you are stronger, you are also able to perform tasks with greater ease.
Stress -You can't wipe stress completely out of your life, but you can try to keep your stress levels down. Stress weakens the immune system, and research shows that stress helps HIV to spread more quickly in the blood and prevents HIV medications from completely doing their job. Some people might turn to drugs (street, club or prescription) in order to find some relief from the stress of HIV, but this can further damage the immune system.
The following are some healthier suggestions for getting rid of stress:
• Change your scenery (go outside if you are inside, come in if you are out)
• Get some form of exercise each day (such as going for a walk)
• Take bubble baths
• Get acupuncture, a massage or reiki
• Talk to somebody, don't just stuff it inside
• Take yoga or tai-chi
• Stand under a train overpass and scream out your frustrations when the train is passing
• Drink hot herbal tea
Keep a journal (if you don't want to write it, tape it or draw it)
LIfe Outside HIV
Remember, you are NOT your disease! You had a life before you were diagnosed with HIV. Being diagnosed HIV-positive has its challenges. After you adjust (however long that takes you), try some of the following suggestions. The important thing is to make sure you have something in your life that is not HIV-related:
• Consider getting clean and sober
• Start or finish school
• Get a job or change the job you have
• Start a hobby
• Listen to music in the park
• Get a new apartment
• Travel and explore
• Start a business
• Get a pet
• Fall in love
• Get married
• Have children
• Learn to drive