for Veterans and the Public
Talk with others who are living with HIV. Ask your provider if they know of any support groups. Or you can go online, where you can find groups to join. Always discuss what you learn from these sources with your provider. The information may not be accurate; and even if it is, it may not be right for your particular situation.
Finding support means finding people who are willing to help you through the emotional and physical issues you are facing. If you let the right people in your life know that you are living with HIV, they can:
- offer you support and understanding;
- provide you with assistance, such as helping with child care, doctor visits, and work;
- learn about prevention.
Deciding to tell others that you are living with HIV is an important personal choice. It can make a big difference in how you cope with the disease. It can also affect your relationships with people.
If you decide to share information about your diagnosis, it is best to tell people you trust and people who are directly affected. These include:
- family members;
- people you spend a lot of time with, such as good friends;
- all your health care providers, such as doctors, nurses, and dentists;
- sex partner(s).
You don't have to tell everyone about your HIV status right away. You might want to talk with a counselor or social worker first.
Join a support group
Some VA Medical Centers have support groups for Veterans living with HIV. Ask your provider if your local VA has one that you can join for support and information.
Joining a group of people who are facing the same challenges you are facing can have important benefits. These include making new friendships, improving your mood, and better understanding your needs and those of your family. People in support groups often help each other deal with common experiences associated with HIV.
Support groups are especially helpful if you live alone or don't have family and friends nearby.
There are different types of support groups, from hotlines to face-to-face groups. Here are descriptions of some of the most popular types, and suggestions about how to find them.
Hotlines or Chats
Hotlines or chats can provide information, support, or link you with local/national services. Search online for hotlines or websites with a chat feature.
Veterans with HIV can get referrals to mental health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, substance use counselors. You will likely have a social worker who is part of the HIV clinic team where you will receive care.
Finally, VA has Vet Centers that provide support in areas like post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and suicide prevention. Many of these centers provide help to veterans with HIV.
Self-help groups enable people to share experiences and pool their knowledge to help each other and themselves. They are run by members, not by professionals (though professionals are involved). You may, for example, be able to find groups specifically for women, African Americans, gay men, transgender individuals, or other specific groups of people. Because members face similar challenges, they may feel an instant sense of community. These groups are volunteer, nonprofit organizations, with no fees (though sometimes there are small dues).