How Can I Make HIV Care Work for Me?
You’ve dealt with some of the hardest stuff already. You’ve been tested, gotten your test results, and have found out that you have HIV. Just processing and dealing with that is a lot—your feelings, other people’s feelings, educating yourself, educating others, finding HIV medical care, and starting care.
The first year after being diagnosed, especially the first weeks, is challenging at times for most people as they adjust to life with HIV. The process is different for different people. For some people, it is quick. For others it takes longer. That’s ok, as long as you are making progress and are dealing with your HIV by getting HIV care, taking your HIV medication, and getting support and other assistance you may need. It’s not ok if you are blocking it out of your mind completely and are not taking any action to protect your health or the health of your sex partners. Not thinking about HIV will not get it under control. Only getting in care, staying in care, and continuing to take your HIV medication every day will do that.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy all the time. Staying in care, taking medication every day, and dealing with the other things that come along with HIV can be hard sometimes. HIV is an unwelcome trespasser in your body. It is a part of your life, but it does not need to define your life or who you are.
Taking the steps that are necessary for you to get control over the virus can make it easier for you to put more time and energy toward the other parts of your life. A key to this is figuring out what works for you to make and keep your medical appointments, take your medication every day, and make sure that you are protecting your health and the health of others from risks that can come along with some sexual activities and substance use. It can take time to figure out what works for you. If you don’t get it right at first, keep on trying different strategies and approaches. Talking to other people living with HIV, close friends whose judgment you trust, mental health professionals, and your physician can help you find solutions that work for you and give you support along the way. You can also find support and assistance from HIV/AIDS service organizations that exist in most places.
Once you find out what works for you, HIV can become a smaller part of your life. For many people, getting HIV medical care, taking medications, and protecting others can be automatic most of the time. This happens because they’ve already figured out what to do, they’ve done it before, and they know they can do it again. Of course, nothing stays the same forever and unexpected things can happen that make it harder to manage life with HIV again. If this happens, step back, think about what has changed and about what you had been doing. Be open to rethinking things and to changing what you’ve been doing. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and give up. Get support from others to help think through the issues and learn from their experiences. Think about some of the barriers that you have already overcome, and remind yourself of the strengths, abilities, and support systems that you have built up over time. Some of the other information on this site may be useful to you in figuring this out, especially the information about HIV treatment, mental health, substance use and other topics related to living well with HIV.
Remember, living with HIV is about living. It’s not about the fear of what might happen or about feeling bad about the past. It is about living today. It’s about being a good friend, family member, partner, or neighbor. It’s about doing what you can to do to be healthy and happy and to continue to be a contributing member of society for many years to come.