Find a support system
It is a fact that living with HIV will change your life. Adjusting to the change will be challenging and won't come over night. The key to adjusting and learning to live with HIV is developing a support system. Once you find out you are positive, take a moment and decide who you feel will be supportive and who won't. There are several sources of support:
- Parents spouses, partners, or other family members may be good sources of support.
- Councilors or social workers can also be very helpful in this adjustment time.
- Don't feel you need to tell everyone about your HIV right away. Do so only when you feel the time is right.
Knowledge is Power
The next step in managing this diagnosis, is getting to know the disease. Learn as much as you can about HIV. It is said that knowledge is power. HIV is the perfect example of how knowing your illness, and knowing your body can help manage a disease process. There are many sources of information at your disposal:
- There are literally thousands of informative sites across the web. Make sure the ones you choose are current and accurate.
- Your local library is an excellent source of information, however some of the content they offer may be somewhat outdated.
- Your HIV physician should provide HIV related educational materials in his or her office.
- Ask questions! Write down any questions you have and take them to your doctor's appointment and don't leave without the answers you are looking for.
Choose the Right Doctor for You
Possibly the most important step in dealing with your HIV is choosing the right doctor to manage your care. Generally speaking there are three options for your care:
- Your family doctor
Some decide to continue their care with their family physician. They feel reassured that they will be seeing a physician who knows them well and who has cared for them in the past. Because of the complex nature of HIV disease, experts strongly advise not to seek HIV care with your family doctor. If your family doctor doesn't see several HIV patients on a regular basis it is best to seek out an HIV specialist.
- An HIV specialist
Specialists keep up with the latest treatment options and research in the field, and are experts in the workings of the body's immune system. In addition, specialist can also manage the ordinary health matters such as colds, high blood pressure, and stomach disturbances. With this method, all your health care is in one place, adding convenience to what can be a very inconvenient disease.
- A combination of both
This option allows you to continue with your family physician for the routine matters, and allow the specialist to regulate the HIV medications and monitor the health of the immune system. If this method is your choice, make sure both physicians communicate your progress to one another. This is imperative to assure continuity in your health care plan.
One last important step in dealing with your disease is keeping yourself as healthy as possible. While your physicians can help, it is up to you to optimize your health in order to feel good and to live a productive life. It is important to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and to see your doctor and dentist regularly. Work hard to avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or using recreational drugs. Doing so makes management of your HIV much easier and successful. One last important point, always practice safer sex to avoid infecting others and acquiring sexually transmitted diseases that complicate your medical care.
There are things you can do to live healthier with HIV. Learn about your disease, find a physician your feel comfortable with and who will allow your to participate in your own care, and take care of your body by eating right and exercising. Take the time to learn about your options and take control of your life. Don't let HIV control you.