The first steps you take are the most important.
Okay, so HIV/AIDS has been around for 30 years, yet too many of us don't know what we need to know about the epidemic. Our special HIV 101 series for BET.com will provide a range of information about this disease that everyone can understand.
Today's "class" will answer the question, "What Should I Do If I Test Positive?"
With this massive push for people to get tested for HIV regularly, especially African-Americans, the reality is that some of us will test positive.
Do you know what to do if that happens?
First, get a second test taken to confirm the first positive result. Sometimes people do receive false positives. But whatever you do, go back for the confirming results.
And I hear you — it is scary. I've even heard people say, "My life is going to end if I know for sure, so I don't want to know."
But, real talk: Your life begins when you have your results — positive or negative — because knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health. Now you are armed with the facts and you can move forward to make decisions on how to live — and live well —with HIV.
When you get your results back and it has been confirmed that you are in fact HIV-positive, the most important thing you can do is GET LINKED TO HIV CARE. This way, an HIV-health specialist can assess how long you have been infected and see if and how the disease has progressed. From there, you and your doctor can decide if you are ready to start taking HIV medications.
For most people, if HIV treatment is not started when their doctor recommends it (i.e., when their CD4 count is low or their viral load is high), eventually their immune system will weaken to the point that they may develop life-threatening health problems. But some people insist on beginning their treatment before they have any health issues.
Most important, if you're newly diagnosed, it can also be incredibly beneficial if you seek out support, get help from your local HIV organization and connect with other HIV-positive people.
And please remember: You are not alone and there are people who will love you and support you, regardless.
BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.
(Photo: Joe Raedle/GettyImages)