Supporting Someone with HIV

Finding out that someone you care about has been diagnosed with HIV is often overwhelming and scary. It can be emotionally draining for them, but may also affect you as well. However, there are a few things that you can do to help a friend or family member who has recently been diagnosed with HIV.

1. Make it clear that you are there for them
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with HIV, make sure that they are aware that you are around and ready to give them any support and assistance needed, even if it is just for a chat or to take their minds off things. Finding out that you are HIV-positive can be quite a frightening thing to come to terms with, as they are facing stigma as well as worrying about their health. On the other hand, if they want space, be ready to give them that space. Let them talk when needed and be ready to listen.

Remember that they are still the same person as they were before their diagnosis, so try not to change the way you interact with them too much.

2. Ensure that they feel reassured
It is important that you make your friend or family member feel reassured in regards to any prejudice surrounding their status. They could feel that others are judging them, so make them aware that you aren’t.  Acknowledge that it must have taken a lot for them to disclose this to you and that it doesn’t change your relationship.

3. Make sure that they know where to get help
Be aware that finding out that they have HIV might cause someone to feel depressed, or lead to substance abuse. There are plenty of charities and helplines out there that will be able to give them support and assistance. It might be worthwhile suggesting that they see a therapist or counsellor in order to help them come to terms with their diagnosis. A support group may also be helpful to them.

4. Have a solid understanding of HIV
Finding out that someone you care about is HIV positive can cause you to have a range of emotions. It is often a worrying thing to find out, however understanding HIV and how it is treated can help you to come to terms with your loved one having HIV. Today, many people living with HIV are on ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) and have the virus under control. A little bit of education may help both of you.

5. Encourage your friend or family member look after themselves
Make sure that they see a doctor and stick to their treatment plan. Help them remember to take their medication every day as prescribed. Maybe try giving them reminders or driving them to the doctor’s surgery. It is really important that they stick to their treatment plan, so giving them assistance in this regard is useful. However, remember to also look after yourself as well. You will be of no help to anyone if your own health suffers.