If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, this means that you were exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and a blood test has shown the presence of HIV antibodies in your blood.
While your body won’t be able to get rid of HIV completely, the good news is that today the treatment for HIV is extremely effective, and you can expect to live a long, full and healthy life like anyone else without HIV.
People living with HIV who are on medication, called antiretroviral treatment (ART), can reduce HIV to the point of being ‘undetectable’ in your blood. This reduces the risk that HIV can pose to your immune system and also means HIV transmission (or passing HIV to someone else) is zero.
Today, with ART medication, people living with HIV can live long healthy lives with a normal life expectancy of other people without HIV. For some people, ART medication is one small tablet taken at roughly the same time once a day. Side effects of today’s ART medications are usually mild. Some people might take a few days or weeks for their body to adjust. Any ongoing side effects can be discussed with your HIV specialist doctor.
When you’re newly diagnosed, normally you’ll see your HIV specialist doctor (also called a ‘s100 provider’ or ‘s100 prescriber’) once every month. This includes regular blood tests to find out if the HIV virus is replicating (reproducing) in your blood.
Once the HIV virus is undetectable which means your doctor can see that your HIV viral load is down below 200 copies per millilitre of blood for at least six months and you continue to take your medications exactly the way they are prescribed by your doctor (also called adherence), there is no risk of passing on HIV to your sexual partner. Around this time normally you will see your HIV specialist doctor once every 3-4 months.
One of the main things to remember, is even though you’re living with HIV, you’re not alone. Besides your doctors or healthcare team, connecting up with other people who are living with HIV (also called ‘peers’) can make a big difference.
Other people living with HIV can understand what you’re feeling, and can support you to live a full, active and healthy life. Most of the staff at Positive Life are living with HIV themselves and you’ll be able to talk, share and find out how other people live with HIV.
If you want to talk to someone or want some support to figure things out, there are a number of confidential support services available.
Positive Life NSW
You can speak to our Treatments Officer or get support from a Peer Support Officer (another person living with HIV).
We also run a number of social support groups. Some are only for people living with HIV, while other groups also welcome partners, family or friends in a safe, comfortable space.
Newly diagnosed gay men living with HIV
Albion Street Centre
Counselling, care and support for people living with HIV
Tel: (02) 9332 9600
Heterosexual clinical service
Tel: 1800 812 404
Information and advice around anxiety, depression and suicide prevention.
TTY: 133 677
Online: online.beyondblue.org.au (3pm to 12midnight AEST)
Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7)
Online: www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat (7pm to 12midnight AEST)
Text: www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-text (12pm to 12midnight AEST)
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (24/7)
ACON counselling services
Tel: (02) 9206 2000 (Sydney), 1800 063 060 (outside Sydney) or 9283 2053 (for the deaf)
Tel: 1800 184 527 (3pm to 12midnight AEST)
Online: qlife.org.au/resources/chat (3pm to 12midnight AEST)