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If You're HIV Positive

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Whether you’ve tested HIV-positive recently or you’ve been living with HIV for a while, you’re not alone.

As of December 1997, more than 40,000 people in Canada had tested positive for HIV. And since then there have been an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 new infections in Canada each year.

Although HIV infection is still very serious, effective treatments are helping people with HIV and AIDS to live longer, healthier lives.

If you’re HIV positive, it’s important to keep yourself healthy, protect others from infection and get ongoing medical care and emotional support.

Keep Yourself Healthy

Living a healthy lifestyle will give your body a better chance of staying healthy for a longer period of time.

Keep yourself healthy by:

  • Eating a balanced and nutritious diet.
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Not drinking alcohol or doing drugs.
  • Quitting smoking.

Protect Others From Infection

Considering the health of others is just as important as keeping yourself healthy.

Protect others from HIV infection by:

Get Ongoing, Medical Care

If you are HIV positive, you will need to have regular testing.

Your doctor will:

  • Order lab tests to evaluate your immune system.
  • Determine if you have other diseases, like syphilis, tuberculosis (TB), bacterial pneumonia or Hepatitis B and C.

If you have another disease, your doctor will treat it to prevent it from becoming more serious or from happening again.

If you're not infected with another illness, your doctor might be able to prevent any future infections through:

  • Vaccines Many people who are HIV positive get a hepatitis B and bacterial pneumonia vaccines since these diseases are dangerous to people who have weakened immune systems.
  • Antiretroviral treatments that can help prevent or slow down the growth of the HIV virus.
  • Regular scheduled checkups every three to six months. (You might need more frequent check-ups, particularly when you’re starting a new antiretroviral drug.)

Get Ongoing Emotional Support

Positive emotional support can be an important factor in helping you build strong physical and mental health. Knowing you are well supported can help guard against isolation and depression. It is important to remember that it is your decision about if and when you tell family and friends about your HIV status, as long as you are not putting yourself at risk of stigma and/or violence. In Canada, individuals who are living with HIV have a legal duty to disclose their HIV status before engaging in risky behaviours that can put someone at significant risk of contracting HIV. It is also important to notify your healthcare workers of your status so they can better care for you.

You may be able to turn to a number of people and/or resources for emotional support, including:

  • Your friends, family or partner(s)
  • Other HIV positive people
  • One-on-one counselling
  • Support groups

Some HIV/AIDS support groups meet on a regular basis to share and discuss common experiences. These support groups may be "closed" (once a group is formed, no new members are accepted), or "open" / drop-in (new members are allowed to join at any time). Support groups usually have a facilitator, who may be a professional or a member of the group.

Visit the Peel HIV/AIDS Network website for more information about HIV/AIDS support groups or other types of emotional support in the Region of Peel.

Sources:

www.peelregion.ca

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