Learning that you’re living with HIV can be overwhelming. Even if the result was expected, an HIV diagnosis can be life-changing. Try to relax. The hard part was getting tested for HIV. It will be easier going forward. Many people with HIV have long, healthy and fulfilling lives.
The key is to get in care right away and take your meds as prescribed.
Don’t wait to start care until you feel sick. You should start treatment as soon as possible after learning you have HIV. Your goal is to lower the amount of HIV in your body as fast as possible.
It takes commitment to do this. You need to take your meds on time, every time, every day.
You’ll need to take your meds for six months or longer before the amount of HIV in your body gets low enough to not pass HIV to others when having sex. The amount of time will be different for each person.
Once your doctor completes lab tests and confirms your HIV is very low, you can be confident you won’t pass HIV to others.
The easiest way to start HIV care is to work with someone who can help you find providers, enroll in programs and offer support and encouragement.
FAM210.com provides free, confidential support and connection to care by chat, email, or phone. Services are provided by caring people living with HIV.
You may be worried about paying for medical care. If you don’t have insurance, you may qualify for programs that can provide free or low cost HIV care, such as CareLink and the Texas HIV Medication Program .
If you have health insurance, you may still have out-of-pocket medical costs for co-pays, meds or deductibles. There may be programs that can help you pay these costs.
Ask about these programs, even if you think you make too much money to qualify. Some programs help people with a wide range of income levels and needs.
Your first HIV appointment is usually a little longer than others medical visits you may have had. Your provider will want to complete a full physical exam, including other HIV-related tests and screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
To give you the best care, your provider will need to know more about you. You may be asked questions about your health history, social life and sexual activity, and daily schedule. Be honest when answering these questions.
You get to ask questions too! Write down your questions before your appointment. If you don’t understand an answer, don’t be afraid to ask your provider to explain things in a different way.
You and your medical provider are partners in your care. An open and honest relationship with your provider is essential. Together, you can make best decisions about the right treatment options for you.
Most likely, your provider will prescribe medications and want you to begin treatment right away.
If you’re on a budget and worried about how much your meds will cost, let your provider know. There are patient assistance programs you may qualify for that will cover the cost of your meds.
It’s extremely important that you to tell your sexual partners you have HIV. Everyone who may have been exposed to HIV through sex or sharing needles needs to get tested.
If you are uncomfortable talking to your partners about your HIV diagnosis, the public health department can help. They have caring, trained staff that can reach out to your partners for you. No one will use your name. All you need to do is share some contact information - even just a screen name or email is helpful.
For help telling your partners, call the Metro Health STD/HIV Clinic at 210-207-8830.
Starting HIV care is less stressful with the support of someone close to you. Support from just one family member or friend can make a huge difference in your emotional and physical health.
If you’re not ready to share your HIV status to someone you know, consider these other ways to get support:
- FAM210.com provides free, confidential support and connection to care by chat, email or phone. Services are provided by people with HIV. Call Yvonne at 210-644-1311 or Brian at 210-358-6833.
- Support groups meet regularly to discuss issues and challenges when living with HIV. Members also help each other manage their treatment. Some support groups are open to anyone, while others address the needs of specific people, such as straight men, teens, substance users, etc.
- The Resource Guide can help you find agencies in San Antonio offering support groups for people living with HIV.