Being young and living with HIV, how do you deal with it?

Being young and living with HIV, how do you deal with it?

“Having so much information nowadays, how is it possible that you have not used a condom?” seems to be the favorite question of adults when they refer to some unwanted consequence of sexual activity experienced by young people.

From an unplanned pregnancy to HIV infection, it is as if information alone is capable of stopping the pandemic that has been on the planet for more than 40 years. If it were that simple, the virus would have been stopped a long time ago.

Also, the last thing a young person who has recently received an HIV diagnosis needs is to be judged. By itself, the news is difficult to assimilate so that, on top of that, they blame you for it.

Why is this happening to me?

It is likely that in your head the question is repeated over and over again: “why me?”. This is normal and has nothing to do with you being young, it is just a way of reacting to a situation that you did not expect and that will significantly change your life.

That it is hard for you to believe, that you go through stages of grief such as denial or anger is totally understandable. To help you go through this phase, you can request psychological support or even approach a mutual support group, made up of other people living with HIV, so that you can learn about other experiences of those who have already traveled the same path.

Human beings always wonder the whys of many things, but the truth is that the answers are not always found, although they can obtain other knowledge and tools, equal or even more useful, during that same search.

What am I supposed to do now?

The first and most important thing is to start medical attention as soon as possible, this means, start taking antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible. Today it is known that this treatment helps to prolong not only life span, but also the amount of healthy life that a person with HIV can enjoy, bringing it very close to what someone who does not have the virus would expect.

The key to a successful antiretroviral treatment, that is, one that manages to reduce the virus levels in your blood to a minimum and that helps your immune system to recover, is adherence. This concept is nothing more than taking the medications on time and in the manner prescribed by your medical team.

Adherence is not easy if we take into account that it is a lifelong treatment, but the most commonly used drugs currently are contained in a single pill a day, so they should make it easier to take in order to achieve the best benefits.

An HIV diagnosis is also a good time to improve your lifestyle: choose healthier food; exercise regularly; Quitting tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. All this will help your body stay healthy for longer.

Last but not least is to use a condom in your sexual life, because in addition to HIV there are many other sexually transmitted infections that you could contract and that, in fact, are more likely to affect people living with the virus.

Who do I tell?

Although HIV is a health condition like many others, it is true that there is still a certain stigma attached to this infection. This is why it is not easy to communicate it to anyone, because you do not know how they will react to the news.

However, it doesn’t have to be a secret either. Sharing your status with people you trust, such as close friends or family members, could go a long way to ease the stress of living with this condition from now on.

It is best to choose who you will tell based on how close your relationship is, and prepare yourself for two scenarios: one where their reaction is supportive and sympathetic, and another where the reaction is suspicious or rejection. You can anticipate the situation by planning in advance how you will say it, and also thinking about what questions you might ask about the situation. The day and place you choose to talk to these people is also relevant, since you can choose a place where you feel calmer.

Remember that today you can live well with HIV, and this requires access to antiretroviral drugs and medical care. If you already have a diagnosis but have not started your treatment, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Just come to our offices in your country or write to us by Whatsapp and we will guide you.