Finding out you’re HIV positive is life-altering. It affects not just your sex but your whole life. It can affect you so much emotionally it may lead to depression; you might feel sad or anxious all the time, be easily frustrated; you might have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite, feel restless or tired all the time.
In extreme cases, you might even start romanticising the idea of hurting yourself or committing suicide. But HIV is not a death sentence and there are ways to stay positive after finding out about your status.
Flash Back: In MTV Shuga: Down South, Bongi faced the same trouble when she learned that she was HIV positive.
Support groups are very helpful. There are support groups who can provide mental health support. Even if it might not feel like it - you are not alone; things do get better; someone else understands.
Mental health providers such as psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists can help you too. As trained professionals they can help you navigate life challenges through counselling and therapy. You should also talk to your HIV healthcare provider about what you’re going through; they will be able to give you the care you need – whether it is prescribing medication or referring you to a mental health professional.
One of the things they can guide you with is the important job of contacting your most recent sexual partner(s) and informing them of your status. It is necessary for them to check their own status and inform their other partner(s).
You might want to talk to your friends and/or family too - but only when you feel comfortable enough. They might be judgemental at first, but they can also provide you with the safe and supportive environment you need.
Staying healthy is paramount to healing. Understandably, you might lose your appetite or not feel eager to participate in activities that used to excite you. However, you need to do everything you can to stay healthy – exercise frequently, eat the right amount of the right foods, and get adequate sleep. You should take your medication seriously; ARVs can be found in health centres, hospitals and designated centres and your doctor will guide you on how best to take them. A healthy lifestyle will have a positive impact on your physical and emotional well-being.
The important thing to remember is that it’s possible to stay positive after testing positive. If you take your meds, prioritize your mental health and don’t be hard on yourself - you can live your best life.