There are probably few things that strike fear in our hearts like a positive HIV test. Like any chronic disease diagnosis, testing positive for HIV is a life-changing event. But by taking the right steps after diagnosis, you can have a positive affect on your future health and well-being.
Seeking early medical treatment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are great ways to start once you test positive. Getting HIV medical care soon after diagnosis will help preserve the strength of your immune system, in turn delaying the progression of HIV to AIDS. Here are important steps you should take after testing positive to protect your health:
- Find and schedule an appointment with an HIV specialist, even if you do not feel sick. While not everyone needs HIV medications right away, an HIV specialist will examine you, take blood tests to assess the strength of your immune system, and educate you about your new disease. It is never too early to start thinking about and planning your HIV care.
- Make sure all your health maintenance screenings are up to date, including:
- TB screening (PPD)
- PAP Smear and mammogram for women
- prostate exam for men
Ask your doctor about screening for other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
- Check to see if you have been vaccinated against:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis A
- Pneumococcus Pneumonia (Pneumovax)
- Flu (if it is the flu season)Tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (tdap)
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, abusing prescription pain killers, or using illegal drugs complicates HIV treatment. If you have a problem with substance abuse, there are programs available that can help you reduce or stop.
- Remember to use condoms to protect yourself from other infections.
- Existing mental health conditions, such as depression, can worsen. Make sure to share your history with your doctor; those with depressed feelings may be less likely to stick to their medication or engage in repeated care.
A new HIV diagnosis can be very traumatic. For a while, it will be the last thing you think about before going to sleep and the first thing you think about when you wake up. But with the right frame of mind and by taking the right steps after diagnosis, you can learn to live with HIV. You can learn to live a full and healthy life.