Coping With HIV
Coping With HIV
Brett Grodeck (Author, The First Year - HIV) gives expert video advice on: Am I going to die soon because I have HIV? and more...
What is the best advice for someone just diagnosed with HIV?
Well certainly don't panic when first diagnosed with HIV. Believe me, I have been living with HIV for 20 years. I have seen people test positive for HIV and freak out and think they are going to die. They are not going to die from HIV, not with the medicines that we have today. If you are diagnosed early on in HIV, you have a fine chance of living a long, full, healthy life. Sometimes people will get diagnosed further in the development of the HIV. Perhaps they won't know that they are HIV positive for many years until something serious happens. That's when you really need to pay attention. That's when you really need to learn how healthy your immune system is and how aggressive the HIV virus may be in your body.
Am I going to die soon because I have HIV?
Nobody can say when they will die. We all will die, but there's no reason today that people should be dying of HIV. There's great HIV medicine, but I think people do need to think about how they got HIV. What kind of lifestyles and behaviours are they engaging in? For example, drinking, and drugs. They always lead to bad things. They never lead you to health and happiness. So if you test positive for HIV, you can still die of an overdose, you can still drive off the freeway in a drunken haze. So you may not die from HIV, but you do need to look at your whole life. Are you smoking cigarettes, are you exercising, are you watching your weight, though you have HIV? All of those things are concerns for HIV sufferers, and those are all of the things that regular, everyday people need to worry about in their lives.
How can learning about HIV help me cope with the disease?
There is so much knowledge, especially about HIV and AIDS, that if you have any doubts about your future, learning all that's written helps find the best medicine, and the best healthy ways to live your life. People can overcome their fear by learning the truth about HIV as much as you can. Most people's fear is based on what they've heard in the past, what rumors have gone around. On the other hand, don't overwhelm yourself with information. Most people do not need to learn everything about HIV right away. It can be scary. Take it slow. Start to read a little bit - perhaps a pamphlet. Call an AIDS service organization. You can call an AIDS hotline in your own state. Ask simple questions. Don't be intimidated. I think talking with other people who have gone through the same thing is immensely helpful because people need to connect and understand that it's not the way it was years ago and the future's really bright.
How can 'denial' be harmful if I am HIV positive?
I think that sometimes there is a role for denial if you are HIV positive. Sometimes taking a few days off from thinking about HIV can actually be healthy. But I think sometimes that the price for having denial about your own HIV status can be too high. For example, if your immune system is not healthy, your T cells are low, and you're denying the reality of your HIV illness, you're not going to your doctor, you're not taking care of yourself, there is a cost to that, and that is potential sickness. The further HIV progresses, the more difficult it is to turn HIV around. I think there are times when people can take some time off from thinking about HIV. Again, if an HIV sufferer has high T cells perhaps the doctor may say, "Come back in three months or six months." Great! Go out, have a life, because the point of HIV treatment is to have life anyway. But if your T cells are low, it's time to pay attention to your HIV.