A diagnosis with HIV gives you a much more positive outlook today than it did 20, or even 10, years ago. One in three people in the UK accessing HIV healthcare are now over the age of 50, which means that sufferers are now living longer with the correct treatment. You can live your full life expectancy, so it is not as serious a diagnosis as it once was.
However, the discovery of being HIV positive is still an extremely shocking and distressing experience that may leave you broken, unaware of what to do next. Here are seven ways to cope with your positive test.
- Ask questions
Start by asking questions of your doctor. You may be surprised by the answers. Many people who find out that they have HIV feel that they have been given a death sentence, that they will be unwell forever, and that no one will ever be able to get close to them again. Asking a few questions will soon dispel those myths and help you feel less anxious.
- Look back at your strengths
In the past, you have probably faced situations that tested you. These may have been things like the death of a loved one, a difficult situation at work, or even an illness or disability that changed your life. But you got through those situations, and your ability to cope with them can also be used now. Remember that you are stronger than you think, and you will be able to cope with these better than you think, too.
- Talk to others
There are HIV support groups all around the country, and they are hugely useful for the coping process. Talk to others like you who have also been shocked at receiving positive test results. Let them share their stories – and how they are coping now. This will help you learn how to accept your condition and see that you are not alone.
- Take action
Rather than sitting back and feeling helpless, take control of your situation. Find your support groups and schedule your visits, read up about your medication and prepare your plan for taking it, and read up as much as you can about your new condition. This will help you to feel like you are in charge, not HIV.
- Rehearse your conversations
When you talk to others about having HIV, what will you say? It may feel like an impossible conversation right now, but you can practice alone. Start by saying it out loud: “I tested positive for HIV”. Think about the questions you might be asked, and prepare answers for those as well. This will make those conversations much less terrifying, and while you may still be nervous about them, at least you will be prepared.
- Start telling people
You can’t start mentally processing your diagnosis if you keep it hidden. Start by telling those closest to you. Use the answers and statements you have practiced by yourself. This will make it easier. Once you have told a few people, you may find that each time becomes less difficult. You will, of course, need to contact any of your sexual partners who may also be at risk of infection.
- Make a future plan
Living with HIV is now easier than ever before, so you absolutely do have a future. Start planning it out and you may feel a lot better about your situation. What do you want to do in five or ten years’ time? Where can you see yourself in the future? Do you want to have kids and get married? What about your career goals? With a plan in place, you will know that there is a positive future waiting for you. More than anything, making a future plan will help you to move ahead with less stress and more optimism.
An HIV diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, and it won’t limit you as much as you think. While it is normal to feel anxious, these coping strategies will help you get used to the idea.
David Beeshaw is an advocate of healthy lifestyle and a staunch supporter of safe sex, occasionally sharing his suggestions with the world. David is also a part of the team at raTrust. Learn more about raTrust and their mission on BizDb.