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HIV/AIDS

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Coping with HIV/AIDS: Mental Health

for Veterans and the Public

Overview

If you are diagnosed with HIV, your physical health is not the only issue you have to deal with. Along with the physical illness are mental health conditions that may come up. Mental health refers to the overall well-being of a person, including a person's mood, emotions, and behavior.

HIV/AIDS can have a major impact on many parts of your life. People with HIV and those close to them are subject to many things that may affect their mental health.

Many people are surprised when they learn that they have been diagnosed with HIV. Some people feel overwhelmed by the changes that they will need to make in their lives. It is normal to have strong reactions when you find out you are HIV positive, including feelings such as fear, anger, and a sense of being overwhelmed. Often people feel helpless, sad, and anxious about the illness.

Some things to keep in mind about your feelings:

  • No matter what you are feeling, you have a right to feel that way.
  • There are no "wrong" or "right" feelings--feelings just are.
  • Feelings come and go.
  • You have choices about how you respond to your feelings.

There are many things you can do to deal with the emotional aspects of having HIV/AIDS. What follows are some of the most common feelings associated with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and suggestions on how to cope with these feelings. You may experience some, all, or none of these feelings, and you may experience them at different times.