As editor-in-chief of POZ and poz.com, a magazine and website for people living with HIV/AIDS, I get a lot of calls from people who recently found out that they are HIV positive. Often, they are scared: that they will get sick or die, that they will be shunned, that they will lose their job or their housing, that they won’t be able to have a child, that they will never be able to date, get married or have sex again. None of these things have to come true.
I found out I was HIV positive 11 years ago. It was one of the scariest periods of my life. Back then, the prognosis for people with HIV was far different than it is today. While there’s no doubt that an HIV diagnosis can be frightening at first, thanks to improvements in treatment and care, this disease no longer has to be a death sentence.
Today, those who access expert care and treatment can live long lives. Even for those who don’t have, or can’t afford, private health insurance—including undocumented immigrants—getting quality care and support is possible.
What’s more, people have come a long way in understanding how HIV is and is not transmitted. While HIV stigma is still an issue, people can be accepting and compassionate, without pity, and treat us with the dignity we deserve.
Antidiscrimination laws are in place to protect people living with HIV/AIDS. It is illegal for companies to fire you, landlords to evict you or medical professionals to refuse you care because you are HIV positive.
It’s possible for both men and women living with HIV to start a family at minimal risk of passing the virus to their partner or child. And you can still have a robust sex life. While communication with your partners and safer sex are very important, your love life doesn’t have to be negatively affected just because you are HIV positive.
In short, there is no reason at all why you can’t have a long, wonderful life despite HIV. This POZ Focus shares steps to help you be as happy and healthy as possible.
Regan Hofmann Editor-in-Chief
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