First things first, remember that an individual's HIV status is personal and legally protected. Should someone share that information with you, you must consider it highly confidential and NEVER share it with anyone else.

Remember that HIV is not casually transmitted or contagious like the common cold or chicken pox. The methods of transmission are few and very specific. This is the time when the individual may need your support and compassion, both physically and emotionally. Giving a hug, allowing the person to cry on your shoulder, or holding hands can give him (or her) the affection that he desperately needs, especially if the person is a friend, and you are at no risk to be infected. Many people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS face discrimination, negative stereotypes, and possible abandonment by family and/or friends. Given that the individual has trusted you enough to share this information with you, you may be the only person that he can turn to for sympathy, love, and affection. The last thing he will need is for you to treat him differently or in a discriminatory manner.* The person wants to know that you see him the same way, and that you will be there for him, no matter what the diagnosis.

Do remember that the person is potentially infectious if he is engaged in any of the high-risk activities, so it is important that you remind him not to have unprotected sex or to share needles with others, as well as disclose his HIV status when seeking/receiving health care.

Finally, remind your friend that an HIV diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. Now through the advancement of anti-retrovirals and other medications, many people who are diagnosed are able to lead longer and more productive lives. However, it is important that he finds a doctor that certified to treat HIV, so that he will be able to receive the appropriate treatments and medications. If your friend makes a conscious effort to lead a healthy lifestyle, maintains a nutritious diet, and remains consistent in taking his medication, there is no reason he cannot live a long, rich life, especially if he received an early diagnosis. In addition, explain that survival does not only depend on physical health, but mental health as well. Maintaining a positive outlook and perspective can make all the difference.

*Persons living with HIV or AIDS are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.



January 2, 2009 at 4:53 PM

you are so right on that one. if a friend or family member has the flu, we are right there to help them and are being exposed to it at the same time. but if someone says "i have AIDS or HIV" most tend to either ignore the situation or eliminate the loved one. People reach out for support and it takes all they have to do such. When others turn their backs on them, what message does that send out?