I just tested positive — now what?

Finding out that you have HIV can be scary and overwhelming. This can be especially true if you are a young person. If you feel overwhelmed, try to remember that you can get help and that you will not feel this way forever–the scary feelings will get better with time. There are some things that you should know about HIV that may ease some of the stress or confusion you are feeling:

You are not alone.

HIV does not equal death: having HIV does not mean that you are going to die.
It does not automatically mean that you have AIDS.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and yes, left untreated, it can lead to death. This is why it is so important to get medical care if you find out you have HIV. Do not be afraid to seek a doctor or other health care provider–he or she can help you to stay well and, hopefully, not get sick. Treatments for HIV are not perfect, and are not available to everyone around the world, but can be very effective for many people. A doctor or other health care provider can explain the best options for you and help you to stay well.

If you have HIV, it is important to know that you could give the virus to others by having unprotected sex or sharing needles (or, if you have a child, by breastfeeding). This is true even if you are feeling perfectly fine, and even if you are taking HIV medications or your virus is “undetectable.” Using condoms and clean needles can prevent spreading HIV to other people. It can also protect you from getting infected with other strains of HIV or other diseases.