You tested positive for HIV. Now what?
If you’ve recently tested positive for HIV, chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns. The important thing to remember is that HIV is a manageable disease that can be effectively treated with medications.
What’s the first thing you should do after testing positive for HIV? Visit your doctor or healthcare provider, even if you’re not feeling sick.
Your doctor will perform a baseline evaluation, which will determine how far the virus has progressed. The evaluation usually includes three lab tests:
- A CD4 count, which determines the strength of your immune system.
- A viral load test, which measures the amount of virus in the blood.
- A drug-resistance test, which helps your doctor identify which HIV medicines you should take.
Getting treatment is the most important thing you can do after testing positive for HIV. Your doctor will most likely recommend starting HIV meds as soon as possible to prevent the virus from multiplying and to reduce the amount of the virus in your body.
Over time, these meds can bring the level of virus in your body down to the point that HIV is no longer detectable through testing. This is known as “viral suppression” or “being undetectable.” Keeping the virus undetectable is the primary goal of HIV treatment.
While treatment doesn’t cure HIV, it does help people with HIV live healthy lives. When your viral load is undetectable, the virus can’t attack your immune system. Plus, the risk of passing HIV to sexual partners is virtually eliminated.
Beyond testing and medications, you may still have questions about how HIV will affect your health. Here are a few things to ask your doctor:
- How will HIV treatment affect my daily life?
- What can I do to stay healthy and avoid getting other infections?
- How can I prevent passing HIV to others?
- How should I tell my partner that I have HIV?
- What resources are available to help me pay for my medical care?
Looking for PrEP or
Search for services near you.
Find resources in
Find a doctor, therapist, or other health services in the Commonwealth.