Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
HIV Infection: Coping
With the Diagnosis
I'm scared. How
can I cope with my fear?
Finding out that you have HIV (human
immunodeficiency virus) can be frightening. One way to fight your fear is to
learn as much as you can about the disease. Knowing about HIV and AIDS (acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome) will also help you take the best care of
You can fight your worry about HIV infection
with reliable information. Although your friends and family may give you advice,
the best information comes from your doctor or your counselor, or from one of
the national, state or local community AIDS resources. Don't allow your feelings
about your past behavior, your lifestyle or the possibility that you gave HIV to
others to keep you from seeking help and information.
What can I do to
The good news about HIV is that early treatment
is helping many people with this infection live longer, healthier lives. It's
normal to feel sadness, anxiety and fear when you first learn that you have
tested positive for HIV. However, if you have trouble sleeping, eating or
concentrating, or if you have thoughts of suicide, tell your doctor. Treatment
can help with depression and anxiety.
If you've been told you have HIV, give yourself
permission to be afraid. It's OK. But don't let this fear keep you from doing
all you can to help yourself. Here are some things you can do:
- Get medical check-ups at regular intervals even
if you're feeling well. Ask your doctor how often to come in for a check-up.
- Always use a latex condom. Always practice "safer
sex." If you don't know how, find out! Your doctor can give you information.
- Help your body fight infection by using less
alcohol and tobacco--or give them up entirely. Eat a balanced diet. Get regular
exercise. Get enough sleep.
- Find out what causes stress in your home life and
your work life. Do whatever you can to reduce this stress.
- Don't share needles for drugs, steroids, piercing
- Get regular dental check-ups--bleeding gums can
increase your risk of infecting someone else.
- Volunteer to work for an AIDS organization.
Facing your fears directly can be a good way to cope with
Who should know I
If you have tested positive for HIV, you must
tell your past and present sexual partners. They should get tested too. You must
also tell any future sexual partners that you have tested positive for HIV. If
you are now in a relationship, you may wish to ask your doctor about how to
explain your positive test results to your partner.
Let your doctor and dentist know that you have
HIV. This will help them give you the care you need. Your privacy will be
respected, and your doctor and dentist can't refuse to treat you just because
you have HIV.
What legal issues
should I consider?
Everyone who tests positive for HIV should
consider ahead of time which treatment options they would want if they become
seriously ill and are unable to tell others what they want. Advance directives
are written guidelines that tell doctors your wishes for different kinds of
treatment if a time comes when you can't make those decisions yourself. You
should also consider getting a medical power-of-attorney. This is a legal
document that names someone (e.g., a life partner, a family member or a friend)
to make decisions for you if you are seriously ill. A lawyer can draw up the
documents for an advance directive and a medical
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Prevention Information Network: www.cdcnpin.org