What happens if you are positive?

The most important thing to remember is that your life is not over. You are exactly the same person you were before you got the test result. You now have the knowledge and the opportunity to fight HIV and help yourself stay healthy. But the thing you must keep absolutely in your mind as you begin this process is that you are going to live on.

It may take a few days for your status to seem real and for you to become ready for the next steps. That's no problem. The first thing you'll probably want to do is to talk to a doctor or medical professional. If you got your results at a public clinic, trained health professionals or counselors are usually provided for post-test counseling to provide emotional support, provide information on HIV and AIDS and offer the next options. These options will include further testing to assess the stage of the disease. Depending on the stage, they may suggest you start on antiretroviral treatment. It is important to ask questions and get as much information as possible while you are talking to them. Take notes; it will be difficult to remember it all later.

You should also consider behavioral changes which may preserve your health and slow the progression of HIV. These include safer sex practices to protect your partner or if you are female, possible future children from infection. If you still have questions, online research is usually very useful. You'll need this information to make informed decisions about your future later on.

If the medical professionals available are not trained in HIV counseling, trained counselors and doctors are available in social hygiene clinics for free. If you wish, you may also take your test result to a public clinic and take a confirmatory test. This will give you the certainty that your result is correct.

How to deal with emotions

The most important thing to know is that your status will probably have much more of an immediate emotional impact than anything else. It is normal to feel many strong emotions when you receive your result. These emotions are natural. Don't rush yourself. It is important to educate yourself during this time; knowledge of what will happen next and what you can expect may remove some of your fear or worry.

Whom should you tell?

You should tell your sex partner(s), and they should get tested too. Many people are uncomfortable telling others about their status and it may be one of the hardest parts in this process. Don't worry. That's normal. While treatment and diagnosis are straight forward, emotionally coping with being HIV positive is harder. It may take time before you are comfortable with your status and are willing to tell people.

Except for your partner(s),the only people you are obligated to tell are your medical professionals.. They will need to know so that they can give you advice, work out a treatment plan and maybe start you on ARV drugs. Anyone else you tell is completely your choice. You do have a moral obligation to share this information with sex partners, however. So practice only abstinence or safer sex if you don't want to tell them about your condition. It's their decision whether they want to take a chance on contacting HIV, not yours.

This will require changes in your life

You will need take care of your health. This includes maintaining a good diet, getting enough sleep, trying to lower your stress, not doing drugs, taking vitamins, seeing your doctor regularly, and avoiding things that might give you infections or illnesses. It is advised that you stop smoking and eat more fruits and vegetables, making sure they are well washed and preferably cooked. By adhering to these changes, you will remove unneeded stress from your life; a stressed-out body is much less able to take care of itself and protect itself from HIV, with or without ARVs. Being HIV positive does not even mean you have to stop having sex, you just have to practice safer sex and use condoms correctly every time to avoid infecting another person.