Since its discovery in the 80s, we’ve learned a lot about HIV — how it’s transmitted, how it multiplies in the body, and how it’s treated. What we’ve spent less time understanding are the psychological effects a positive HIV diagnosis can have on a person.

 

Coping with an HIV Diagnosis

Finding out that you’re HIV-positive can elicit a lot of feelings, like regret, shame, anger, and shock — just to name a few. Some of the best ways to combat these negative feelings are to:

Get educated.

HIV treatment has come a long way over the years. While there is still not a cure for HIV, it’s by no means a death sentence. Studies show that when an HIV-positive person begins antiretroviral therapy immediately after they contract the disease, their likelihood of living into their 70s is just as high as the average, HIV-negative American.

Join a support group.

Many people have a hard time disclosing their positive status, out of fear of being judged or ostracised. Talking with others who not only accept you but are in a similar situation is a great way to alleviate the emotional burden of a positive diagnosis.

Remember that you can have healthy, “normal” relationships.

Thanks to PrEP, condoms, and a number of other safe-sex practices, it’s more possible than ever to have a healthy romantic and physical relationship with another person.

Unhealthy Coping Methods

What you don’t want to do after an HIV diagnosis is:

Live in denial.

Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t work with HIV. If you're sexually active or think you may have been exposed to HIV, ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. Though a positive diagnosis can be difficult to hear, it’s actually a good thing because it means you can now get the proper treatment and prevent spreading the disease.

Keep your diagnosis a secret from everyone.

There are only a handful of people who have the right to know about your status — you, your healthcare provider, and anyone you’re sexually active with. While you by no means have to tell friends, family, and coworkers about your status, sexual partners have the right to know so that they can take the proper measures to protect themselves.