Finding out we have HIV can feel scary or overwhelming. At YouthCO, we offer peer support for young people living with HIV or Hep C. Call us to find out more: 604-688-1441, or check out our staff listing to send us an email.
With any new health condition, it’s important to get as informed as possible. Check out our Resource page for community resources, websites, and more information.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, there are some important things to know:
HIV is not a terminal illness
One really important thing to remember is that HIV is a chronic illness, which means it’s something that you will have for a long time. It also means it’s not something that will automatically lead to death.
There is treatment
Today there are over 30 antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) available, and many more being made, to treat HIV. These drugs do not cure HIV, but lower the amount of virus in the body to the point of being “undetectable” so that it does less damage to our immune systems. This means that people living with HIV can have long and healthy lives, and are less likely to pass the virus to sexual partners.
Treatment is free in British Columbia
If you live in BC, HIV meds are free. The British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS provides a Drug Treatment Program (DTP) to ensure that all persons living with HIV in BC have access to free antiretroviral therapy.
Being HIV+ does not mean you have AIDS
HIV is an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which over time without treatment it can cause AIDS. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that occur once HIV infects and weakens the immune system over time. With the latest meds, the number of people living with AIDS is decreasing in BC.
People living with HIV can still have sex and children
Being diagnosed with HIV does not mean your sex life or ability to have children ends. With HIV, there is more to consider when having sex, such as disclosure and preventing it from being passed. With treatment and condoms we can still enjoy sex and prevent HIV from being passed to our partners. Likewise, with medications and other techniques (such as sperm washing and artificial insemination), people living with HIV can safely conceive and give birth without passing HIV to partners or babies.
There are lots of programs and support
Vancouver, BC, and Canada have lots of programs and support for people living with HIV. Accessing support groups, peer navigators, recreational programs, and social services can improve our health and help us live well with HIV. Check out our community resources page for more information.