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Coping With an HIV/AIDS Diagnosis
Advice for the Newly Diagnosed
"When I was diagnosed I had to find a way to turn this horrible thing, this negative thing, into a positive. I had a choice: I could sit there and cry and let this thing eat me alive or I could just celebrate my life and beat it. That was my choice."
"Being HIV positive has been the greatest adventure I've ever had. I kind of want to say it's like being on a rollercoaster."
For most people, the hardest part of adjusting to life with HIV isn't the physical issues -- it's the emotional ones. In parts of the world where effective HIV treatment is readily available, HIV is now considered a chronic disease, much like diabetes. But unlike diabetes, there's still a ton of stigma attached to being HIV positive. Even though having HIV doesn't make you a bad person, unfortunately there are many people -most of them ignorant of the facts about HIV -- that still discriminate against HIVers simply because of their status.
HIV treatment has changed drastically in the past 15 years. Now, most people in developed countries only need to take medications once or twice a day to keep HIV in check for many years. Side effects are milder and less common than they've ever been.
It's completely possible for many people with HIV to live their lives no differently than they had before their diagnosis (although healthier living becomes more important, and having safer sex is always critical).
However, because of the stigma and guilt that still surrounds HIV, because HIV was so long thought of as a death sentence, and -- let's face it -- because HIV still is a serious disease to have, coping with your diagnosis can be a real challenge.
· Here are some important things to keep in mind, however:
o You are not alone. Whatever your age, race, gender, nationality, you name it, there are other people out there who have gone through what you're going through. Take strength in those numbers, and add their courage to your own.
o Support is just a click or a phone call away. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is connect with others and seek out the support you need.
o You can beat panic attacks. They happen to plenty of people. Don't be afraid to talk to a counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist for help.
o Depression is common -- and it's treatable. Be aware of the symptoms -- and the steps you can take to emerge into a happier frame of mind.
· tips and information you can use to help you as you adjust to living with HIV. Here's a taste: