Yes, you will have it for the rest of your life as it is not curable, but if you get tested early and start antiretroviral medication, HIV is now manageable – with a few lifestyle adjustments HIV-positive people can live a normal life.
Reading and finding out everything there is to know about HIV – the treatment and side effects – will put you in a position of strength and boost your confidence. And when you’re empowered on the subject, your mental health is better able to cope with your situation. It is important to find reliable and factual information about the disease, and not to believe all the “stories” you hear. Your clinic or hospital should be able to provide you the information.
Stop blaming yourself; stop feeling guilty. Whether you got infected from a one-night stand or a trusted partner (so you thought), the harsh reality is the damage has been done. Instead of debating all the “what if” options, the quicker you can get over the anger and disappointment in yourself, accept that this is how your life will be, and focus your time and energy on yourself, the sooner your life will be on track again.
Accepting your status is not something that will happen overnight, nor will it happen within a few weeks or even months. For some people accepting their condition can take years, which is why professional counselling and family support are key to accepting and making the most of your life going forward.
Stress is a silent killer – it weakens your immune system, and a compromised immune system slows down your body’s capability to fight the deadly virus. Talking to someone who won’t judge you is the first and most crucial step to coming to terms with and accepting your disease, as well as helping you cope with stress. Counselling gives you the chance to discuss your concerns, find practical ways to help yourself, receive emotional support, as well as providing a lifeline to coming to terms with your anger, hurt and fears. It also empowers you to cope – not just today, but into the future.
These reactions are normal, but dealing with your thoughts, fears, anger, guilt and stress is far more manageable when you have someone trustworthy to talk to, offer support and be there for you.
Ongoing counselling will help you to:
- Accept your diagnosis
- Manage how HIV will affect you on a daily basis
- Cope with family acceptance
- Live positively with the disease
- Adapt and control your health and lifestyle
- Handle problems that arise from living with HIV
- Cope emotionally and psychologically
- Plan for the future
- Overcome thoughts of death and related issues like depression.
- All community mental health services have allied staff (psychologists/social workers) visiting clinics on a weekly basis.
- Ask your clinic/hospital doctor to recommend a counsellor or psychologist.