Receiving a diagnosis of any life-threatening illness is devastating. But the
emotional, social and financial consequences of HIV/AIDS can make coping with
this illness especially difficult — not only for you but also for those close to you.
Fortunately, a wide range of services and resources are available to people with HIV. Most HIV/AIDS clinics have social workers, counselors or nurses who can help you with problems directly or put you in touch with people who can. They can arrange for transportation to and from doctor appointments, help with housing and child care,
and deal with employment, financial and legal issues.
Steps that may help
Some of the following suggestions may help you deal with the emotional toll of living
•Learn all you can about HIV/AIDS. Find out how the disease progresses, your prognosis and your treatment options, including both experimental and standard treatments and their side effects. The more you know, the more active you can be in your own care.
•Be proactive. Although you may often feel tired and discouraged, don't let others — including your family or your doctor — make important decisions for you. It's vital that you take an active role in your treatment.
•Maintain a strong support system. Strong relationships are crucial in dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Although friends and family can be your best allies, in some cases they may have trouble dealing with your illness. If so, an HIV counselor, other people who are HIV- positive, or a formal support group may be helpful. Take time to make important decisions. One struggle you'll likely face is how much to reveal about your illness. When your disease is first diagnosed, you may not want anyone to know. But HIV/AIDS is a heavy burden to carry alone. Like many people, you may eventually
decide that it's important for your emotional well-being to confide in someone you trust. The choice is up to you. You need to tell your current and former sexual partners and your health care providers. Beyond that, there is no legal obligation for you to reveal your HIV status, even to your employer. In fact, the law guarantees your right
•Come to terms with your illness. Coming to terms with your illness may be the hardest thing you've ever done. For some people, having a strong faith or a sense of something greater than themselves makes this process easier. Others seek counseling from someone who understands HIV/AIDS. Still others make a conscious decision to
experience their lives as fully and intensely as they can or to help other people who
have the disease. A vast support network is available for people with HIV infection.