AIDS InfoNet Logo
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.
This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Site of the Week
November 2003

The Health Leader Award 2006
The Health Leader Award 2006

The HOPE Reward

Med411.com Medical Award

HealthAtoZ.com Featured Site Award

BuscaSalud.com

IBS Tales Hope Award

HealingWell.com Editor's Choice Award

Listed in Listed in Treasures of the Internet


AIDS InfoNet Logo.  The AIDS InfoNet - Reliable, Up-to-Date AIDS Treatment Information
International Association of Providers of AIDS Care
Reviewed April 16, 2014

Fact Sheet 201

How Do I Start?




DID YOU JUST LEARN THAT YOU'RE HIV-POSITIVE?
LEARN MORE ABOUT HIV
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO DEAL WITH HIV
GETTING HELP
THE BOTTOM LINE
FOR MORE INFORMATION

 


DID YOU JUST LEARN THAT YOU’RE HIV-POSITIVE?

It can be very scary to learn that your HIV blood test came back positive, but it’s not a death sentence. The test means that you are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There is no cure for HIV disease, but there are treatments that help keep the disease under control. Many people with HIV infection live a long and healthy life. No one can predict how long it may take to develop any symptoms of HIV disease.

When you first find out that you have HIV, you’ll need to adjust to this change in your life. Family members or friends might be able to help you, or you could talk with a counselor or social worker. Take your time and don’t feel that you have to tell everyone right away about your HIV status. Fact sheet 204 has more information on telling others. Then start taking the next steps:

  • Learn more about HIV disease.
  • Keep track of your immune system.
  • Decide how you want to deal with HIV.

 


LEARN MORE ABOUT HIV

HIV is a virus that can multiply rapidly in your body. Without treatment, HIV can make your immune system very weak. If this happens, you might get an “opportunistic infection” (see fact sheet 500.) Common germs cause these diseases. People with healthy immune systems can be exposed to these germs and not get sick. The same germs can cause serious illnesses in people with weak immune systems.

The first medication for HIV was approved in 1987. Now there are many different drugs that can be used to slow down the HIV virus. Most people with HIV disease can now expect to live healthy lives for many years.

You will probably have a lot of questions about HIV disease. There are many good sources of information, including:

  • your local public health department
  • your HIV case manager or health care provider
  • the AIDS InfoNet web site at http://www.aidsinfonet.org

Be careful about the information you’re getting – check it out with your health care provider or other sources to make sure it’s accurate.

 


KEEP TRACK OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

In addition to your regular medical exams, there are two special blood tests to keep track of HIV disease. They are the viral load test and the CD4 cell test.

The viral load test (see fact sheet 125) helps show how strong the HIV virus is in your body. It measures the amount of HIV in your blood. Lower levels are better. This test is used to help decide when it’s time to start using antiretroviral medications (ARVs), to see if the drugs are working, and to know when to change medications.

The CD4 cell test (see fact sheet 124) helps show how strong your immune system is. It counts how many infection-fighting white blood cells you have. These cells are also called T-4, T-cell or T-helper cells. If your CD4 cell count gets too low, you might develop an opportunistic infection. This test is used to help decide when it’s time to start using medicines to prevent opportunistic infections.

Your health care provider will probably want to do these tests about every six months. Talk to your health care provider about when to start treatment.

 


DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO DEAL WITH HIV

HIV may not be the only health issue you are dealing with. The better your health is overall, the better you can deal with HIV. Be sure to get regular medical and dental checkups, and get treatment for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. If you can avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, recreational drug use, and sexually transmitted diseases, you will probably find your HIV easier to control.

 


USING HIV MEDICATIONS TO FIGHT HIV

Current guidelines (see fact sheet 404) recommend treatment for all HIV-positive people. You will need to get information and work with your health care provider to decide what kind of treatments fit best with your beliefs, desires, and life style. You will need to get information and work with your health care provider to decide what kind of treatments fit best with your beliefs, desires, and life style.

 


USING COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

Some people believe they have stayed healthier because they use traditional healing practices, massage, acupuncture, herbs, or other therapies. Fact Sheet 700 has more information on these therapies.

It is difficult to get information on how well these therapies work for HIV disease. Most of them are not studied the same way as western medicines. That doesn’t mean they don’t work, but you may have to find other ways to check them out. Remember, there are no “miracle” cures. If it sounds too good to be true, be very careful.

 


GETTING HELP
You can get help from a case manager at a local AIDS service organization. Check with your local health department. A case manager will give you confidential help to find out about and receive HIV/AIDS services.

You can also check on the Internet for HIV/AIDS information and services.

 


THE BOTTOM LINE
There are things you can do to stay healthier with HIV disease. You can learn more about the disease, monitor the health of your immune system, and decide how you want to deal with your health.

Remember, you are in charge of your own health care. You will decide which health care provider to work with, and whom else you want to consult about your treatments. You will decide which treatments you want to use and when you want to use them. Take your time and learn about your options.

 


FOR MORE INFORMATION
The AIDS InfoNet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org has many fact sheets that can help you. These include fact sheets on antiretroviral therapies, CD4 and viral load tests, opportunistic infections, and living with HIV.

 


 This Fact Sheet was sponsored by the US Food and Drug Administration


Back to Fact Sheet Categories



New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center International Association of Providers of AIDS Care

 

The AIDS InfoNet is a project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center,
and the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.
webmaster@aidsinfonet.org

 

United States National Library of Medicine

Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine



Search Our Site
Newest Fact Sheets
Print This Fact Sheet
You can print this fact sheet on a single page in Microsoft Word (.doc) format or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. Click on the links below to open the document in your browser and then print it.
 Adobe Acrobat PDF
 Microsoft Word

You can print directly from your browser using the link below. The printout will probably go onto a second page.
 Print Version (Web)

Monthly E-mail Updates

The InfoNet updates its Fact Sheets frequently. A listing of each month's changes is posted to several e-mail lists.

If you would like to receive this monthly update by personal e-mail, please provide your e-mail address below, and click on the "Submit" button.



Subscribe
Unsubscribe