Getting started:

Start by finding an agency that provides HIV-related or health services in your area. The agency will provide you with a case manager- someone who knows about HIV programs and services, medications, treatments and related illnesses. If you have a primary healthcare provider that you prefer to contact, ask your doctor to work closely with an HIV specialist to ensure that you receive all the benefits for which you are eligible, as well as the best care possible.

In addition to your healthcare provider, consider connecting with a local AIDS service organization in your area. They may be able to assist you with case management services, housing and transportation, and finding HIV support groups in your area. Learning to live with HIV can be overwhelming and confusing at times; local AIDS service organizations can help.

TREATMENT AS PREVENTION

If you test positive for HIV, treatment should start immediately. Studies show that individuals who start treatment right away stay healthier longer and have a lower viral load.  Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in your blood.  If your viral load is lower, you are less likely to transmit HIV to others. Treatment as Prevention (TasP) 

MEDICATION ADHERENCE

Medication adherence means sticking to an HIV regimen—taking HIV medication exactly as prescribed. Side effects, stigma, and barriers to access all can make it difficult to stick to an HIV regimen, but HIV medications prevent HIV from multiplying, which protects the immune system and reduces the risk of drug resistance and HIV treatment failure.

STIGMA AND DISCLOSURE

Stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and disclosure of one’s HIV status are two complex issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS. Disclosing one’s HIV status is an extremely personal decision that HIV-positive individuals face every day. Stigma occurs when others are prejudiced toward or discriminate against a person or group of people because they have a certain disease. Stigma heavily impacts personal and community prevention efforts, and can certainly have an effect on whether or not someone feels comfortable enough to disclose their HIV status.

How do we fight stigma?

Education- Stigma often comes from misinformation and myths about HIV. Stigma can present itself  when discussing what HIV is, how HIV is transmitted, how HIV is prevented,or how HIV is treated.  By continuing to raise awareness and promote education, more individuals will have the accurate information to assist in changing attitudes about HIV.