Recently Diagnosed

What to Do After Testing HIV Positive

If you just learned you are HIV positive, it’s natural to feel scared, confused and unsure what to do next. But knowing that you’re positive also gives you power that not knowing doesn’t: the power to seek treatment, to handle the health issues you can control and to protect the people you love.

After testing HIV positive, you’ll definitely have some changes in your life, habits and relationships. Here are the most important steps on your way to living well with HIV:

Seek treatment

AHF has offered quality services for people with HIV since 1987. Find out more about becoming an AHF patient.

Choose a doctor with experience treating HIV. Your physician should be someone you can talk to openly. The two of you will be working closely together to maintain your quality of life and devise the best healthcare plan possible. Think about what’s important to you in a doctor, and then do some research. You can also ask for referrals from others with HIV.

Protect your health – both physical and emotional

Keep your body strong by eating right, exercising and getting enough rest. As much as possible, avoid alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs, and if you’re on meds, remember to take them.

After receiving your diagnosis, you may feel depressed or want to isolate yourself from family and friends. Try to maintain your connections, and talk to your doctor if you can’t eat, sleep or concentrate. You’ll feel better with a strong support system in place.

Get informed

The more you know about HIV and the drugs that are used to control it, the better you’ll be able to make decisions about your treatment. Your doctor and HIV/AIDS organizations can be great sources of information. Learn more about HIV Treatments

HIV/AIDS groups can give you legal tips as well as treatment information. They’re your first line of defense if you face discrimination – illegal in many countries – and can help you draw up documents to ensure you get the kind of healthcare you want.

Tell others

It’s hard to know who to tell that you’re positive. Telling your loved ones can be a relief and give you support, but not everyone responds well to this news. Let your instincts help you decide who to trust with this information, and when.

Regardless of who else you choose to share your status with, you should tell:

  • anyone you’ve had sex or shared needles with
  • anyone you plan to have sex with
  • your doctor and dentist

By telling your sex partners, past and present, you help protect them. By telling your doctor and dentist, you help them give you the right kind of care. Depending on what country you live in, you may be able to inform past partners anonymously at


What to Do if Your Partner Is HIV Positive

If your partner is HIV positive, there are a few basic safety precautions you need to take. Most important is to practice safer sex. Even if both of you are positive, you could expose each other to different strains of the virus and make medication less effective. You should use barriers with sex toys and separate works if you inject drugs. Keep your own individual razors and toothbrushes, and don’t share them.

To clean up blood or other bodily fluid:

  • Use chlorine bleach diluted in water – 1/4 cup to every gallon.
  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.

If you’re part of a mixed-status couple – meaning one of you is positive and the other’s negative – there are also resources designed specifically for you. Check out the SMART Couples Project, or look for support groups near you.


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