You are probably reading this because you’ve recently been diagnosed with HIV. You just received some life-changing news - start with taking a deep breath and being gentle with yourself.
Everyone responds differently to this news, and there is no right or wrong way to handle it. On this page you’ll find some initial information to guide you through this time, if you want more detailed information about living with HIV then you can go here, but we suggest you take some time to read and absorb the content on this page before moving on.
Give yourself time to get used to the idea that having HIV will change your life in significant ways, but you will have support and learn to adapt to these changes over time.
Remember that an HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to stop you living a full and healthy life. With the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long as someone who doesn’t have HIV. HIV shouldn’t stop you doing the things you want to do in your life.
Also, once you start treatment and have maintained an undetectable viral load for at least six months, HIV will not be able to be passed on to your sexual partners.
Testing positive for HIV often leaves a person overwhelmed with questions and concerns. Check out this page for people, tools, counselling and other support that you can access.
In the coming days and weeks, you might start thinking about sharing your new diagnosis with people in your life. Being diagnosed with HIV is a personal experience, and it’s up to you to decide when and with whom you feel confident to disclose your HIV status.
Remember, you don’t have to share your status with everyone. You don’t have to tell your friends, employers or work colleagues if you don’t want to. New Zealand has a robust human rights framework that aims to protect people living with HIV.
Under New Zealand law, you are not obligated to tell your sexual partners your HIV status so long as you are using condoms every time.
Focus on the people that will help you heal and give you the support you need. When you’re ready, you can check out more information about disclosure here.
After an HIV diagnosis, you will be asked about your recent sexual partners. This is called contact tracing. It is a process to find out whether anyone else may have been unknowingly exposed to HIV and to alert them to get tested. It’s important to be honest and, don’t worry, your identity cannot be disclosed by your doctor and your recent partners will be contacted anonymously.
It is important to develop a good relationship with your doctor, and to talk to your GP or health professional about your status. Monitoring your health and making sure you have the right treatment options available to you will increase your well-being.
It is wise to tell health professionals you are seeing for other conditions that you are living with HIV. However, you do not have to disclose your HIV status to every doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional.
Letting them know will give them a clear picture of your health and be able to help you make decisions about your health. Your healthcare provider cannot reveal your HIV status to anyone, except in extreme and unusual circumstances (for example, if someone else’s safety is involved, such as some cases of non-consensual sex brought to the attention of the police), and they should inform you first.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor for any reason, you can talk with them about your concerns. If you are still not satisfied, remember you have the right to choose a different doctor that you trust and feel comfortable with, or who has more knowledge about HIV. NZAF can help you to find doctors or health professionals who have HIV expertise and experience.
There are some simple things you can do that can make doctors appointments easier:
- Beforehand, make a list of questions you want to ask so you won’t forget if you get nervous
- Remember, you can always take a support person with you
- Take a pen and paper to make notes of everything the doctor tells you. This helps you to have the information handy when you want to think through your options later
- Ask the doctor how many times you will need to meet them and make your next appointment.
Evidence shows there are significant health benefits in the long term when starting HIV treatment as soon as possible. Starting early also means your viral load may become undetectable sooner - once this happens, HIV is no longer transmitted sexually (Undetectable = Untransmittable). In Aotearoa, you can access publicly funded treatment as early as you wish, no matter of your residential status.
You can also learn about immigration on our Life with HIV page.