HIV Positive? Options for Staying Healthy | PEP, Diagnosis, & ART Treatment

Getting a positive test result can trigger a lot of emotions.

The good news is there are options to keep you healthy.

Recently Exposed?

Sometimes, sex occurs without protection. It’s all good until it’s not. And that can cause some panic.

For emergencies like this, there’s PEP. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, the first and most important step is to get tested and talk to a health care provider. If you’re within the first 72 hours of potential exposure, your health care provider can prescribe PEP. This 4-week prescription is highly effective in treating HIV.

New HIV Diagnosis

If you haven’t taken a moment to breathe, do so. It’s going to be okay. Okay? Let’s talk about what happens next.

First, a health care provider will typically retest you. While rare (as in 4 out of every 1,000 tests), false positives can occur.

If you have HIV, there isn’t a cure. But HIV can be treated so you can live a healthy life. Your health care provider will assess the intensity and stage of the virus in your body before prescribing and recommending a medicine that treats HIV called Antiretroviral Therapy or ART. ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV. It gets HIV under control, usually within six months. This daily treatment regime consists of a combination of HIV medications. ART is highly effective at suppressing the amount of HIV in your body (viral load). In fact, treatment can reduce your viral load to a level so low that it can’t be detected. When HIV is undetectable, it is untransmittable — you can’t give it to someone else. Making sure you take your daily treatment and checking in regularly with your health care provider are the best ways to keep living a healthy life.

It’s important to share your HIV status with any sexual partner. Unless you’ve taken a test and HIV is undetectable, you or your partner should wear a condom to prevent your sexual partner from contracting HIV. If this conversation sounds awkward, you’re not alone. Learn more about how to have the conversation by visiting our Talk page.

It’s also important to have a strong support system. That often means talking to family or friends who care. Not sure how to start the conversation? Here are some ways to share your status and your feelings: Talk.

Know your risk. Consider discussing one of the two options with your health care provider.