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Understand your HIV diagnosis

for Veterans and the Public

Understand your diagnosis

When your medical provider tells you that you are HIV positive, it means that you have been infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, the HIV test does not tell you if you have AIDS or how long you have been infected or how sick you might be.

Soon after your diagnosis, your provider will run other tests to determine your overall health, and the condition of your immune system. For descriptions of these tests, go to Understanding Laboratory Tests.

Learn about HIV and AIDS

The more you know about HIV and how to treat it, the less confused and anxious you will be about your diagnosis. The more you learn, the better you will be at making decisions about your health. You don't have to learn it all at once, however. It is important to go at a pace you are comfortable with. This may be fast, slow, or in-between. You may want to go over the same information several times.

There are many ways to learn about HIV and AIDS:

  1. Start with the Basics section of this site and read through all the sections.
  2. Read information online. Remember that there is a lot of internet information that can be inaccurate or misleading- be sure to look for reputable sites whose content can be trusted. Check out government or nonprofit educational organizations that deal with HIV and AIDS issues. You can find a list of them on the Resources page at the end of this section.
  3. Use your local library: The most current information will be in the library's collection of newspapers and magazines (books about HIV and AIDS may be out of date by the time they are published).
  4. Check with your local VA medical center to see if there's an on-site library where you can find patient materials on HIV and AIDS.