newly diagnosed with HIV

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with HIV you’re probably feeling a mixture of emotions (eg fear, disappointment, guilt, shame, confusion, shock). You’ve also probably got a lot of questions.

The good news is that people living with HIV today who are on HIV medication, can have a full, active life like anyone else and can expect to live a normal lifespan of someone without HIV. It might take you some time to adjust to and accept your HIV status and work out how it fits into your life.

Living with HIV is going to change your life in some small ways. These include regular doctor’s appointments to monitor your HIV and taking regular HIV medication (also called HIV treatment) to control the HIV virus in your body.

There are many different treatment options that are available these days so it’s important that you have a HIV Specialist, a GP who can prescribe HIV treatments who is also called a section-100 (s100) prescribers (these are doctors who are authorised to prescribe HIV medications). You can search for a s100 prescriber in South Australia by searching this online database. You can discuss your HIV treatments with your s100 prescriber.

It’s important to develop a good relationship with your doctor or s100 prescriber. You will need to be able to ask questions and make decisions about your health alongside your doctor. This relationship with your doctor is a very important one which could normally be for the rest of your life. To work well, it needs to be a strong partnership and one you are comfortable with and enables open conversation between the both of you.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor for any reason, talk with them about your concerns.  If you are still not satisfied, you always have the right to choose a different doctor to find someone you can trust and feel comfortable with. If you feel your doctor doesn’t know enough about HIV, you can always ask for a referral to a doctor with more knowledge and experience.

When you are first diagnosed, normally your doctor (s100 prescriber) will want to see you every month. You will have a blood test at each appointment to find out

  • what your viral load is (how much HIV virus is in your blood) and
  • what your CD4 count is (how well your immune system is).

Your doctor will also prescribe you HIV medication to take, so you can control the HIV virus in your body.

Normally, for the first year, you will have monthly appointments with your s100 prescriber to monitor your health. Once your doctor is satisfied your HIV medication is controlling the HIV virus, normally your s100 prescriber appointments will change to every three months. After several years you might only need to see your s100 prescriber and monitor your HIV using blood tests every six months.

What do I need to know?

  • There are many people living with HIV in Australia today who lead full and active lives.
  • People living with HIV can live their lives in much the same way as they did before diagnosis.
  • Your doctor or s100 prescriber is your key ally to stay healthy and monitoring your HIV throughout your life.
  • One of the best ways to find out more about living with HIV, is to talk with other people living with HIV, also called peers living with HIV. Peer support has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to move through an experience, understand it and maintain a good quality of life.
  • Positive Life South Australia is an organisation made up of people living with HIV who can offer peer support to help you get on with your life.