Hearing that you’re HIV positive is perhaps one of the most daunting challenges you’ll ever face, it is a life-changing event that will likely affect everything you do for years to come. In Australia 68% of 27,000 HIV cases involve sexual contact between males; it is an issue that is understandably clear and present in the lives of gay men.
Many of us have a partner, a friend or a relative in the community who has been stricken by the illness and it can be difficult to understand how to offer comfort and support, something that they dearly need. We’ve compiled a list of areas to keep your eye on when dealing with an HIV positive loved one.
Understand what they are going through
While only your loved one can ultimately deal with the implications of being HIV positive, you can arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about the illness in order to best support them. Acquaint yourself with the symptoms of the illness and treatment options necessary by visiting resources like thebody.org and emen8.com.au. Understand that HIV is not a death sentence anymore. Almost 85% of Australians have access to care these days, and antiretroviral treatments can greatly reduce the ill-effects of HIV.
An Open Dialogue
If a loved one has decided to confide in you, they are making a big gesture of trust. You must work to keep this trust by encouraging open lines of communication. Ask your friend or partner how they are feeling, if they need any help, don’t be afraid to ask respectful questions and encourage your loved one to feel comfortable continuing to talk about their illness.
At the same time, don’t dwell on the diagnosis. Your loved one will need time to sort through their complex feelings themself as well. Offer an ear to listen no matter what they want to talk about, and make sure you engage with them as you would have before.
Support their Treatment
If your loved one hasn’t started on the long path towards managing their illness, encourage them to see a doctor before anything else. The earlier they start taking steps to control their illness the less the chances are of complications. If they have trouble finding the necessary services, connect them to healthcare providers. If they are having trouble getting their medication and taking it on time, you can help them come up with a routine, or provide them with transport.
Ensuring your loved one stays on a stable, committed course of treatment is absolutely necessary.
Be a Pillar
Your loved one will be dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions, as well as physical effects. Make sure that you keep their secrets and protect them from the scrutiny of friends or family members who they don’t want to reveal their diagnosis to yet. If necessary try to connect your friend to a therapist or counsellor that can help guide them through their journey. You can normally find such resources through dedicated websites like positivelife.org.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself either, keep trustworthy friends and family in the know so that they can answer your questions and provide much-needed perspective for your own anxieties. You may need to be strong for your loved one, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need support too.