Living positively with HIV and AIDS

Coping with confirmed HIV infection

Learning that you are infected with HIV will change your life dramatically. You may experience a wide range of emotions—fear, loss, grief, depression, denial, anger, anxiety. No matter how reassuring the doctor and your loved ones, how effective drug therapies are now and will become, how minimal the physical impact of the infection on you for the present, or how intellectually and emotionaly prepared you may be, your need for support will be great.

The psychological issues faced by most persons with HIV infection revolve around uncertainty. Your future hopes and expectations, your relationships and your career will all require some adjustment in order for you to cope with HIV and lead a happy, productive life.
The impact on your health

The impact to your health is likely to depend on the stage of infection you have reached when you discover you are HIV positive, the psychological support available to you, and your access to good health care. Soon after becoming infected with the virus, some people experience a brief flu-like illness with fever, swollen lymph glands, skin rash or cough. You may then remain perfectly fit and healthy for many years despite being infected. For approximately 50 percent of infected people, the time between becoming infected and the appearance of the opportunistic infections that characterize AIDS is more than 10 years. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to be tested since the earlier you begin appropriate care and treatment, the better off you will be.

Partners are likely to suffer the consequences of HIV infection and disease as much as the infected person, albeit indirectly.

Antiretroviral combination therapy has been shown to slow the onset of AIDS and prolong life expectancy. Your quality of life could also be improved by the preventive and therapeutic use of drugs that fight off common opportunistic infections and other diseases to which HIV-infected people are vulnerable, such as tuberculosis. Active TB screening is also important for families with an HIV-positive member.

The impact on your personal relationships

Partners are likely to suffer the consequences of HIV infection and disease as much as the infected person, albeit indirectly. This is so even if partners know that they are not HIV infected themselves. Their lives are likely to experience the same kind of pressures and upheavals, and they can experience similar feelings of uncertainty, grief, loss and anger. Communication between the two partners and between partners and professional counselors is important to foster understanding of the adjustments that will be needed. For example, adjustments in sexual behavior are necessary to stop further infection.

More Information

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  • POZ Magazine
    Working with photographers, writers, designers and doctors, POZ chronicles the HIV epidemic around the world. Their motto is Health, Hope and HIV, POZ en Español and a variety of other health care resources can also be found at this site.
  • Living with HIV/AIDS
    An online guide published by the US Centers for Disease Control.
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