Knowing for the first time that one is HIV-positive can be scary and confusing, especially because of the stigma that attends living with HIV/AIDS; and much more because of the crass misinformation that the situation attracts.
Here’s what you can do if you have just discovered that you are HIV-positive
• Get enrolled in the nearest health centre where you can receive medications (antiretroviral therapy).
• ART reduces the amount of virus in your blood and body fluids.
• The drugs can keep you healthy for many years, and greatly reduce your chance of transmitting HIV to your sexual partners if you take them consistently and correctly.
• If you are taking ART, follow your doctor’s advice. Visit hospital regularly and always take your medicine as directed.
• There are many organisations that help newly infected people to move forward. Ask your doctor for details.
• Use condoms consistently and correctly. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective in preventing you from getting re-infected, and also from infecting others.
• Condom protects you from other sexually transmitted diseases.
• Both male and female condoms are available. Ask your pharmacist.
• Henceforth, choose less risky sexual behaviours, to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
• Talk to your partner about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you think your partner has had a possible exposure to HIV.
• An example of a possible exposure is if you had anal or vaginal sex without a condom or the condom breaks and your partner is not on PrEP.
• Your partner’s chance of exposure to HIV is lower if you are taking ART consistently and correctly, especially if your viral load is undetectable.
• Get tested and treated for STDs and encourage your partner to do the same. If either of you are sexually active outside the partnership, you should get tested at least once a year and talk to your provider about whether more frequent testing is of benefit.
• While you are praying for healing, continue to take your medications religiously too.
• If you believe that you have been healed of HIV, don’t stop your medications until your doctor is convinced after you may have taken a series of medical tests to confirm your healing.