There are millions of people with HIV worldwide who are living happy and fulfilling lives. For them, and soon enough for you, HIV becomes part of the background, no more or less important than they want to make it in their lives. HIV is a medical diagnosis, but it's also much more than a medical diagnosis. Testing positive for HIV is a serious matter but one that you can deal with. Starting HIV medications early is one of the best ways to take care of your health. Antiretroviral therapy or ART (taking medicine to treat HIV infection) is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they are. Know that you are not alone. Many people are living with HIV, even if you don't know that they are. Develop a network of people including friends, family, healthcare providers and others impacted by HIV to provide you support throughout your life with this new diagnosis.
Newly Diagnosed with HIV
Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life changing. You may feel many emotions - sadness, hopelessness, or anger. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners. Allied health care providers and social service providers can help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis. They are often available at your health care provider's office.
HIV treatment involves taking medicines that slow the progression of the virus called a retrovirus, and the combination of drugs used to treat it is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is recommended for all people living with HIV, regardless of how long they've had the virus or how healthy they are. ART must be taken every day, exactly as your health care provider prescribes. Most HIV-related care in ND is provide by private infectious disease providers.
Telling your partners that you have HIV before you have sex or inject drugs may be uncomfortable. But doing so protects you under the law. It also allows your partners to make decisions that can protect their health. You should also tell your current or former partners if you've been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted infection (STI). This lets them know that they should also get tested for other STIs.
If you take HIV medicine every day, exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. This is called treatment as prevention. Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and protect others.
Healthy Living with HIV
People living with HIV sometimes face issues that can affect their nutrition. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, people living with HIV should eat healthy, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking. Physical activity can also help you reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blook pressure, type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancer. These are all health conditions that can affect people living with HIV.
Stigma & Mental Health
Good mental health will help you live your life to the fullest and is essential to successfully treating HIV. Click here to learn more about HIV stigma and discrimination and view stories of people who have overcome HIV stigma. To help manage your mental health, it is important to know when, how, and where to get help. If you need help finding treatment use SAMHSA's Treatment Locator or call the national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV
- Living with HIV, CDC
- U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- Common Patient Assistance Program Application
Resources for People Living with HIV in North Dakota
Ryan White Part B Program
The Ryan White program is federally funded and reimburses medications, medical care, and support services for persons living with HIV. To qualify for the North Dakota Ryan White program, an individual must:
- Have HIV,
- Be a ND resident, and
- Have an income at or below 500 percent of the poverty level ($67,950 for a household of one).
Tri-State HELP (Housing Environment for Living Positively) HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS) provides housing assistance and related services assistance for low-income persons living in North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota. For more information, visit their website or call 701-258-2240.
Finding support means finding people who are willing to help you through the emotional and physical issues you are facing. If you let the right people in your life know that you are living with HIV, they can offer you support and understanding, provide you with assistance, help you navigate HIV care, and help you know that you are not alone by sharing their own lived experience.
Support Groups and Peer Navigation Services
Positive Hearts Support Group meets every second Tuesday of the month at 11:30am Central in Fargo. For more information call Pastor Joe Larson at 701-235-5591.