“I am in my last year of college and I just tested positive today. I’m really scared and I don’t know what to do from here. My worst fear was being alone and that was even before HIV came along so now I am even more scared. I don’t know how anyone will be so understanding at my age to want to date me.” — Thomas from Florida
First, what an exciting time to be at in your life! You are about to finish college and take the world by storm. Second, I can only imagine how you might feel as if this diagnosis is the end of your life before things have really begun. I felt that way, too, and it was lousy. Fortunately for me and for you, that feeling passes and you can get right back to planning your big, bright future in no time. You see, the thing about taking the world by storm is that sometimes it kicks your ass in the process. This is one of those examples, but just like anything else, you have to shake it off and get back out there, knowing a little more than you knew before. Here are a few tips to get you right back on track.
Start treatment immediately. Get your health and your new treatment regimen under control. Not only does early adherence to HIV medicine ensure the most optimal health outcomes, it also is the best way to make sure you do not unintentionally spread the virus to someone else. Getting your physical health under control also allows you to focus your emotional health.
Don’t limit yourself. Everything you wanted to achieve before your diagnosis is still in your grasp. A healthy love life, a successful career, an exciting sex life, children, or whatever you have envisioned for yourself; it is all still possible. But how fast you get it all depends on this next step.
Talk about your status with the people you trust. Don’t keep your HIV status a deep, dark secret, because that would mean that you have something to be ashamed of. You don’t. And if you lose a friend or two because they judge you for being positive, then good riddance to a really bad friend. A support group is essential to managing any of life’s obstacles, and this is no different.
Don’t worry about finding someone to love. The number one biggest issue that most newly diagnosed people worry about is the quest for love and companionship. The only thing that will keep you from finding love is if you believe that you don’t deserve it. It is true that there are some guys out there who will be too afraid to go on a date with you. But rest assured, the majority of people you meet won’t let your HIV status get in the way of giving sex and romance a shot.
Now, here is the part where I get to play the part of your big gay brother. Honey, if your biggest fear is being alone, it sounds like you need a little confidence boost in general. Believe it or not, that will come with a little age and work/life experience. I remember being in states of near panic when I was young. I would worry about never finding the right guy, or not being desirable enough for the guy I wanted. HIV never got in the way of finding a date, but it was finding love for myself that made me stop caring about if someone would ever love me. And this might just be the kick in the pants you need to put yourself and your health above the interests of others.
My best advice would be to not spend a minute worrying about the guy who may or may not reject you. When you are ready, help educate people your age by being open with your status in your own way. This alone will attract so many of the right kinds of people that you’ll never have to worry about the wrong ones.