Dan, Gail and myself often answer questions around the potential risk of different exposures for those of you who are HIV negative - but I want to take a minute to discuss with you some steps to take if you do test positive or have tested positive in the past and don't know what to do? Here are a few tips for you:
1. First, KNOW that an HIV diagnosis IS NOT a death sentence! Most people testing positive today can expect a productive life similar to when you get diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure and have to take medications.
2. Talk to someone about it - either a person in your life you trust or an online community (www.poz.com , www.tpan.com ) - you'll be amazed at how talking with people who have been through it can help you through a tough time.
3. Go see a physician - it can be your primary care physician or an Infectious Disease or HIV specialist (www.aahivm.org ). Be responsible and get yourself checked out from head to toe to see if you need medications and other services immediately or can wait. There are close to 30 medications that are effective in slowing down the virus and the infectious and inflammation complications of being positive, so educate yourself and see what meds may be right for you.
4. Address your mental health - just as important as getting the physical checked out is taking care of the psychological. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety either before or after the diagnosis, don't ignore this aspect of your health... its crucial to you moving forward! Family, friends, pastors, spirituality, therapists, psychologists/psychiatrists... whatever works for you, just don't ignore it!
5. Communicate with your sexual partners - while its true you don't have to tell the whole world about testing positive, it is your responsibility to let sexual and romantic partners know. Many of us put ourselves at risk for HIV because we assume someone is negative, and many people adopt a "Don't ask, Don't tell" approach to talking about HIV. Be strong and honest - if a person runs or judges you because you are positive, they probably weren't good for you in the first place...
As always, take care of you first people, whether you are positive or negative... defeating this disease depends on it!!!
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