What If I Test Positive?
If you’ve received news that you’ve tested positive for HIV, it’s normal if you feel shocked, confused or upset. However, we want to assure you if you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, you’re not alone.
It is important to take a bit of time to get your head around the news. Once you’ve done that, taking a few key next steps can help you feel like you are taking control of your health.
There are excellent healthcare and support services available for people who test HIV positive in Australia. That’s largely due to the excellent healthcare and access to treatment we are privileged with. Most gay guys with HIV are living full lives and enjoying good health – and you can too.
Here are some strategies to help you adjust and plan for the future.
Connect with a doctor you trust
Whether it’s about medications and treatments, nutrition or lifestyle changes you want to make, or resources you need for tackling any anxiety or stress you may be feeling – bring all your questions to your doctor or medical professional.
They will provide you with information about HIV and ask you for a detailed medical history. You’ll also have a range of blood tests done including viral load tests which determine how quickly HIV is reproducing in your system and if your immune system is being compromised.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your current or regular doctor, there’s no reason why you can’t switch to a different healthcare provider. After all, it’s your health and you should feel safe and assured with who you open up to.
Start treatment for HIV straight away
You may have heard that HIV treatments can be a hassle to take and have bad side effects. In the past, that was the experience for many people but it’s much less the case these days. The variety of new treatments that are available today are far more effective against HIV, far better tolerated and pose minimal side effects.
People starting modern treatment take a few tablets once or twice a day, some only needing one pill once a day. Discuss your options with your doctor.
Why is early treatment important?
Since 2015, Australia’s policy has allowed people to seek treatment as soon as they are diagnosed, regardless of their CD4 count. Why? Well, we know that treatment reduces your viral load – usually to undetectable levels – which means you are much less likely to pass on HIV to your partner or partners and it will help stop the spread of HIV in our community.
We also know that untreated HIV may have detrimental effects on the body right from the start. Early treatment may prevent this damage, and reduce your risk of developing a number of other health conditions including cancer, cardiovascular (heart, blood vessel) disease and neurologic (nerve, brain) complications.
Further, starting treatment early can dramatically increase your lifespan and quality of life. In fact, it’s believed that people who start treatment earlier will probably enjoy a normal life expectancy.
Inform your partners and practise safe sex
You can take steps to ensure HIV isn’t passed on to your sexual partners by practising safe sex. It is also important to let your previous sexual partners know that they may have been at risk of infection prior to your diagnosis. Your doctor or healthcare provider can provide guidance.
Open up, you have support
It’s understandable that the idea of opening up to someone – apart from a medical professional – about your HIV diagnosis seems hard. However, if you have someone you can trust, they may be able to offer you guidance and support.
Otherwise, ACON can offer support and counselling, as well as other resources and workshops to help you connect with others who are going through the same thing as you.