Newly diagnosed HIV: Tom's Story
An HIV diagnosis may spark many emotions, and you might need to take some time to let the news sink in. Drawing on his own experience of being newly diagnosed as HIV-positive, Tom has provided some tips below to help you deal with your diagnosis.
- Don’t panic. So, you’ve just been told you’re HIV-positive and there’s a lot going on. It’s normal to be scared or worried but take a breath and slow down, you’re going to be okay.
People living with HIV diagnosed today can expect to live a long and healthy life, just like the rest of the population. Taking your medicine every day as prescribed can help you achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. If your viral load becomes undetectable and stays at this level for at least 6 months, you cannot pass HIV on to others. You can have sex without fear of passing it on, start a family and do any job you want. HIV has changed, but your dreams don’t have to.
- Ask questions. You’re going to have a lot of questions, but always remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. When a question unexpectedly pops into your head, jot it down somewhere safe, that way when you’re at home you can look it up on a reputable website, such as LiV Life or i-base, or ask your healthcare team next time you have an appointment.
- You don’t need to go through it alone. When you’re diagnosed it can be very tempting to keep it all to yourself. You might feel like this is something you need to deal with alone and you don’t want anyone else to know – that’s understandable. But having someone to discuss your situation with can improve your outlook.
You could sit down with a trusted friend or family member and share as much as you feel comfortable doing. You could also get in touch with an HIV support organisation, such as Positively UK, who can set you up with a positive peer mentor. Another resource that is available is Looped In, created and run by NAT (National AIDS Trust), that allows users to create custom webpages that can be shared with others to support conversations about HIV. Take your time, and choose what feels right and safe for you, but the benefits of sharing and taking the weight off your shoulders can be life-changing.
So just remember to take a breath, ask questions and reach out for some support when you feel ready. You can also read through more top tips, covering topics such as telling others and starting treatment.