Newly diagnosed? You're not alone

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07 Jul 2016

Receiving an HIV diagnosis can bring a mixed bag of challenges into someone’s life. There’s a lot to take in, understand and navigate in the early days of your diagnosis.

Some people take it in their stride, exhibiting a very resilient response to HIV. This could be because they know someone living with HIV, their partner may be living with HIV or they just know the future is going to be ok given the current treatments for HIV.

For other people newly diagnosed, the news seems frightening, even deadly. Perhaps HIV was never on their radar and they might not have realised with today’s effective treatments, HIV is not the death sentence it once was. For many people today, movies like Philadelphia might be their only HIV reference points. Everyone’s life circumstances are different and these have various impacts with a HIV diagnosis.

For the majority of people however, a new diagnosis can be an overwhelming, lonely and isolating time and bring many questions about what it might do to your career, relationships and your future generally.

The various support and clinical services that are available can be confusing in itself. Trying to decide which are the most useful can be a bit daunting in the early days.

An HIV diagnosis can also bring existing problems, such as a debt or a legal issue that has been simmering away in the background to the forefront. Focusing and prioritising on the next move can be challenging and leave some people swamped.

Many times people new to living with HIV don’t find out about these support networks for various reasons. Doctors are very focused on your wellbeing, sorting out tests, explaining what the results mean and trying to get all the other important and relevant information across often in a very short timeframe which can mean not all the bases get covered. As one person described it, this time is like “being in the spin cycle”.

Another person was completely unaware there was a broad range of services outside the healthcare system for people living with HIV (PLHIV). Talking to someone else who is living with HIV can be an empowering experience for someone just diagnosed, however finding other people in the ‘same boat’ is not always easy.

Positive Life NSW has developed a program called TORQUE to help people deal with everyday challenges along with their HIV diagnosis in a more informal but confident way. TORQUE will link people with a new HIV diagnosis to others who are going through the same experience.

Support and understanding from others in a similar boat, or peer support, can make a big difference to you when you’re ready for more information, more support or some understanding about living with HIV. Peer support can help you feel ready to explore your options with this new diagnosis and learn what other HIV specific support networks and services are available to you.

If you want more information about coming along to TORQUE, or have questions about the group, please contact the Treatments Officer at Positive Life NSW confidentially by phone on (02) 9206 2177. For details of the next TORQUE evening click here.

BY DAVID CRAWFORD