Perhaps the only thing more concerning than learning you’re HIV-positive is hearing that a friend has tested positive. And while it can be shocking, stressful, and downright scary to discover that a friend or loved one has HIV, it’s important to remember that they’re still so much more than their disease.

Regardless of their HIV status, remember that your friend is still the same person they were before their diagnosis.

Get informed.

There are a lot of rumors and misinformation out there about HIV. Learning about the disease should be the first thing you do if you’re looking to help a friend with HIV. Oftentimes, people are comforted to learn that:

  • Not every HIV-positive person will develop AIDS.
  • Antiretroviral medicines help HIV-positive people lead happy, healthy lives.
  • People with HIV can have happy and intimate relationships.
  • HIV is not a death sentence.

Don’t disclose their status to other people.

Your friend confided in you, not your other friends, and not your family. If someone discloses their status to you, it means they trust you.

Ask questions.

Ask your friend honest, serious, and sincere questions about their diagnosis. This will show your friend that you care about them and their health. However, if your friend is uncomfortable answering a particular question, respect their privacy and don’t push them on it.

Encourage them to seek counseling.

HIV affects more than a person’s body. Mentally, coping with an HIV diagnosis can be hard. Talking to others in a similar situation or attending therapy can help someone cope with the stress and anxiety that can come from an HIV diagnosis.

Be encouraging.

Not every conversation you and your friend have now has to be centered around HIV. Continue to talk about your friend’s future, movies you want to see, and adventures you want to have. An HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to change every aspect of your and your friend’s life.