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 and the more than 1 million HIV-positive people living in the U.S. today.
It may help to remember that being HIV-positive is not the virtual death sentence it once was. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). 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, productive lives.
Today, HIV-positive people have many options for AIDS and HIV medication. These options include:
Anti-HIV medications that treat HIV infection
Drugs that treat side effects of the disease or HIV treatment
Drugs that treat opportunistic infections that result from a weakened immune system
Researchers are continuing to develop many new types of AIDS and HIV medications.
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.
See a HIV/AIDS Doctor Right Away
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 with experience in HIV and AIDS as soon as you can. Don't put it off. Your AIDS doctor 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, your doctor can work with you to develop the best treatment plan, including when and how to begin treatment. HIV drugs can often slow or prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. Left untreated, though, HIV can lead to serious illness and death.
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.
Read about HIV in other sections of this web site.
Seek information from government or nonprofit educational organizations with a focus on HIV and AIDS.
Learn about both experimental and standard HIV treatments, as well as their side effects.
Talk with others who have been diagnosed as being HIV-positive.