HIV diagnosis can be a life-changing, traumatic event in someone’s life. Knowing what you can do as a supportive friend or family member can help the victim more than you imagine.
1Educate Yourself. The more you know about HIV the more assistance you can offer in terms of opinions, acceptance, and stigma fighting. Knowing little things such as: you cannot contract HIV from normal, day-to-day contact with your friend, sharing drinks/food, or insect bites, etc. will help you to overcome the initial stigma and become more supportive.
Remember that confidentiality is KEY. Your friend confided in you for a reason. It is not your place to breach this trust. Your friend will likely tell you who else they have disclosed to. If you feel the need to speak to a peer about their situation, discuss it with them first. Protecting your friends privacy is critical, as HIV still has a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding it, and their diagnosis, in the wrong hands, could hurt them more than the virus itself.
Be There. Your friend will be experiencing a lot of emotions in the initial stages of diagnosis. It is your job as a good friend to help them focus on the bright side (HIV is no longer a death sentence, it is treatable but there is no cure). Let them know that you love them no matter what. Just knowing you are there is often all the support they need.
Involve Yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and donate your savings to HIV Research. Even something as simple as forwarding your friend an article related to HIV let’s them know you’re thinking of them.
Educate Others. An alarming number of youth believe that there is a cure for HIV. This has lead to the virus making a comeback over the past decade. Did you know that the leading cause of death in women worldwide is HIV? Did you know you cannot contract HIV from sweat, tears, urine, or saliva? Little misconceptions about the virus lead to massive public misinformation. Since you’re more educated on the topic, feel free to chime in when someone you know is talking about the virus. Awareness and education will help us to one day eliminate this modern-day health crisis.