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Coping with HIV: Tips

for Veterans and the Public

Coping tips

It is completely normal to have a negative reaction when you are diagnosed with HIV. These reactions do not last forever. As noted in this lesson, there are many things that you can do to help take care of your mental health needs. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Start HIV medications (ART) right away — an effective ART regimen will improve and protect your health, and protect your sex partners, and the knowledge you are taking this positive step may improve your feelings about yourself and the future.
  • Talk about your feelings with your providers, friends, family members, or other supportive people.
  • Try to find activities that relieve your stress, such as exercise or hobbies.
  • Try to get enough sleep each night to help you feel rested.
  • Learn relaxation methods like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine and nicotine you use.
  • Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day.
  • Join a support group.

There are many kinds of support groups that provide a place where you can talk about your feelings, help others, and get the latest information about HIV. Check with your VA health care provider for a listing of local or virtual support groups. Some VA medical centers have support groups available at the clinic or hospital.

More specific ways to care for your emotional well-being include various forms of therapy and medication. Used by themselves or in combination, these may help you deal with the symptoms you are experiencing. Therapy can help you better express your feelings, negative thoughts, and unhelpful behaviors and find ways to cope with your experiences. Medications may help with managing these symptoms.

You should always talk with your provider about your options. There are many ways to care for your emotional health, but treatments must be carefully chosen by your VA provider based on your specific circumstances and needs.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone; there are support systems in place to help you, including doctors, psychologists, social workers, family members, friends, support groups, and other services.