A positive test result can be very scary; the emotions one feels ranges from shock and anger to hopelessness and denial. These feelings can be felt all at once, or at different times.
Being HIV positive changes your life completely, however there is no need to panic. Do try to take control of the situation. First, decide on positive things to do for the rest of the day, stay busy and life goes on.
A positive result is an important medical message that may help save or extend one's life span. Your counselor, nurse, doctor or care giver may have told you the implications of the result and the next steps for you. Given the right attitude and adequate information, most people live long, productive lives. Getting information and taking charge of your health will help you make the best of your situation.
Reading about HIV and AIDS is a good first step, so you are already on the right path. Go to a nearby organization where counseling services are available to get more detailed information. You can get in touch with the State Ministry of Health, or contact your State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) who will give you a list of NGOs and People living with HIV support groups closest to you. The National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) has provided some toll free lines you can call for enquires or more information 234-0802-719 2783 (NACA).
Talking about your status with another person will help you deal with the test result. Join a support group. Other people living with HIV will understand you best because they have gone through the same stage you're at. Listening to them talk about their experiences will answer many of your questions. You will gain confidence and have fewer doubts.
A positive test result is life changing; you must begin to make a conscious effort to adopt a positive attitude to life. Eat healthy, eat as much as you want, you can eat all the foods you have eaten before, only now you have to eat regularly and your diet has to be balanced. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, drink lots of clean water and try as much as possible to avoid alcohol and smoking because excess alcohol damages your liver and smoking destroys the lungs. If stopping all together is difficult, gradually reduce your intake till you can stop. You should stop taking recreational drugs like hemp and heroin.
Go out, relax with friends and family and take regular exercise. It is also important that you protect others from getting infected; protect your sexual partner by using a condom correctly and consistently. It is important that you disclose your HIV status to your spouse or sex partner so they can get tested and also begin to take care of themselves. If you cannot tell them directly, ask your doctor or counselor to help you. Some people have written anonymous letters to their past sexual partners asking them to get tested and directing them to places they can get help, this is better than not saying anything.
Not telling them and waiting till their immune system is destroyed and they start getting ill or even die is not a good thing to do.
When ill, most of us wait till the situation becomes unbearable before seeking medical attention. In HIV infection, the immune system starts to break down immediately, and not just when opportunistic infections show up. So you have to keep an eye on the health of your immune system.
Noticing the symptoms when they occur, getting prompt treatment and having laboratory tests done, can help you monitor and manage the health of your immune system. The laboratory tests are Full blood counts, CD4, Viral load tests among others. For you and your doctor to decide if you need to start the antiretroviral (ARV) therapy or not, you need to know the results from the above mentioned tests. A healthy immune system has a CD4 of 500 to 1,500. If the CD4 count is below 200, your immune system is very weak and you are at risk of developing serious opportunistic infections like herpes, oral thrush, CMV, and TB. It is best to start the ARV at this stage, to strengthen your immune system and prevent irreversible damage to your body.
A viral load test helps to measure the amount of virus in the blood. This test is not as widely available as the CD4 test, so don't bother if your local hospital has no facility for this test or you cannot afford the test. The higher your viral load, the lower your CD4 cell count, and the greater the damage HIV does to your body. Using Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) can greatly reduce the level of HIV and slow the rate of the disease progression.
There are several approaches that you can take against HIV All are useful but using any of them alone is not enough to keep you healthy. Unfortunately, some of these are promoted with extreme passion to the exclusion of others. The best overall approach for you may be one that combines the best of the approach listed below.
Use of supplements and vitamins
Use of prophylaxis
Treatment and management of OIs
Use of ART
Monitoring and evaluation
The key to successful intervention is comprehensive inclusion- doing all the things that makes sense to you. The biggest mistake is to rigidly choose one approach over the other. HIV infection can be life threatening and every decision you make about treatment has consequences, so each person has little room for mistakes.