It can be hard enough to screw up your courage and get tested for HIV. But what do you do if the test comes back positive, indicating that you have the virus that causes AIDS?
Finding Out You Are HIV Positive
There is no one way to respond when getting an HIV positive diagnosis. It is common to feel scared, depressed, angry, confused and shocked. These feelings can hit you all at once, build up over time, or turn up unexpectedly long after a diagnosis. About's Guide to HIV / AIDS says,
"There is no dispute; learning you are HIV positive is a life-changing event. But if you take a deep breath and try not to panic, you can take control of the situation... Take the time to learn about your options and take control of your life. Don't let HIV take control of you.
Most teens who test positive for HIV benefit from support and a lot find it really important to tell family and friends what they are going through. But this can also be complicated.
Being HIV positive or having AIDS is nothing to be ashamed of. However, if you think it would be dangerous to share your status, at home, at school or in your community, then you might want to hold off on doing do.
Hopefully, the place where you got tested was able to give you information about local services. But you can also contact your nearest GLBT community center. Many have support groups for HIV positive teens, or know where you can find one if they don't run a group themselves.
Additionally, the Well Project and the magazine POZ offer this list of services that can be helpful.
Your Medical Care
The best way for HIV positive teens to stay healthy is by getting the proper medical care. Though it might be tempting to stick with your regular doctor, unless he or she specializes in HIV / AIDS, it would probably be a better idea to find someone who does.
HIV / AIDS management is a complex and growing field, and if possible, you want someone deep in the trenches who is really going to understand all the details of this complicated condition.
The Adolescent AIDS Program at Montifiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY has this great nationwide list of youth-friendly HIV counseling, testing and care services.
Living Your Life
Learning to live with HIV is a process and it shouldn't be one that you expect to understand or adjust to right away. Remind yourself that an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence. It is true that until AIDS medication were invented, many people with AIDS did not live long. But since the advent of a group of medications called protease inhibitors (back in 1996), people with HIV can expect to live a long and often healthy life.
A writer on About's Gay Life site offers this wise advice:
"Getting HIV is something that takes time to grieve over. Part of the grieving process is denial. We want to believe we don't have the virus or that if we ignore it, it will go away. Clearly it doesn't work that way. Ignoring it or refusing to take care of yourself only make things worse in the long-run. Then comes the resentment: Why can't I do the things I used to do? Why can't I be just like everyone else? The truth is that no one should be eating unhealthy foods, everyone should have some regular exercise, and everyone should watch their stress and self-care. The trick is that most people will not do these things until they are forced to—by HIV or by some other life-altering event. It doesn't make you morally superior to start taking care of yourself, it simply makes you human."