Being diagnosed with HIV can be an overwhelming experience. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, you may be unsure about who to tell and where to turn for help. Fortunately, there are a variety of outlets that someone living with HIV can turn to for support.
Here are six resources that can provide useful advice and assistance for anyone unsure about how to navigate their recent HIV diagnosis.
1. Healthcare providers
Your healthcare provider is typically one of the first people you can turn to for support about a recent HIV diagnosis. They should already be familiar with your medical history and can help you choose the best course of action for treatment.
Aside from prescribing medication to help manage your condition and administering tests to monitor your progress, healthcare providers can answer any questions you may have about living with HIV. They can also tell you how to reduce your risk of transmission.
2. Support groups
Attending a support group and talking to others who are going through a similar experience can be beneficial for someone living with HIV. Speaking face-to-face with people who understand the challenges related to HIV may help put things into perspective. It can lead to an improvement in mood and a more positive outlook, as well.
You may be able to find local support groups in your city or neighborhood. These can provide you with a community that’s not only bonded by a shared medical condition, but also a shared location. Support groups can also help create new and lasting friendships, which are a valuable part of the HIV treatment process.
3. Online forums
Online forums are another useful means of finding support after receiving an HIV diagnosis. Sometimes, the anonymity of communicating online can allow you to express sentiments and feelings that you might not be comfortable telling someone face-to-face.
Another benefit of using online forums and message boards for support is that they’re available 24/7. They also broaden the scope of a traditional support group to include people from all over the world. For example, the POZ online forums are one community that anyone living with or concerned about HIV can join. Or, join Healthline’s very own HIV awareness community on Facebook.
There are many other free online support groups for people living with HIV, so talk to your healthcare provider to see if they have any recommendations for you.
Hotlines can provide information, support, and connections to services in your area. Most hotlines are anonymous, confidential, and toll-free, and a number of them are available at any time of the day.
Although your healthcare provider can give you a more comprehensive list, the following hotlines are a good place to start:
5. Family and friends
The idea of telling your family and friends about your HIV diagnosis can be intimidating, especially if you’re unsure about how they’ll react. But talking about your feelings with someone close to you can be very therapeutic. It can also help you gain the confidence to discuss your condition with others in your social circle.
It’s often best to start by telling someone who you trust and know will respond to the news of your diagnosis with empathy and compassion. If you’re apprehensive about how to start the conversation, ask your healthcare provider or members of your support group about the best strategies for broaching the subject.
6. Mental health professionals
It’s common for people living with HIV to experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia. Talking to a mental health professional is the best means of support if your HIV status is affecting your mental well-being. Doing so can be a constructive way to process your emotions, and may help you work through certain issues that you find difficult to open up about with people you know.
There are a number of government services in place to help connect you with a mental health professional, such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Your healthcare provider can also assist you in finding someone who will be a good fit for your mental health needs.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with HIV, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. These support systems can all play a vital role in helping you cope with your diagnosis and move forward. If you ever feel like you need help, advice, or just someone to talk to about your feelings, don’t be afraid to ask.