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Coping with HIV: Mental Health

for Veterans and the Public


Mental health refers to the overall well-being of a person, including a person's mood, emotions, cognition and behavior.

Many people have strong reactions when they find out they have HIV, including feelings such as fear, anger, and a sense of being overwhelmed. Often people may feel helpless, sad, and anxious about the illness, despite knowing that HIV can be effectively treated. People might also have negative thoughts related to the stigma of an HIV diagnosis. These feelings and thoughts are normal. With time, hopefully, these will fade.

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.
  • You have choices about how you respond to your feelings.

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