Giving HIV a place in your life

Everyone reacts in their own way when they hear the test result: ‘HIV positive’. It can be a huge blow to somehiv plek people, but for others it might take some time for the news to really hit them. It makes a big difference, for example, whether you hear it from someone you know, such as your family doctor (GP), or from a stranger. It also makes a difference if you have been thinking seriously about HIV. It could be that the news rips through the pink clouds of your pregnancy like a bolt of lightning. And while many people find it very hard to give HIV a place in their life, they ultimately also find something positive about it as well: getting closer to yourself, personal growth or living more in the here and now, for example.

If you have just heard that you have HIV, you might be filled with all kinds of thoughts and emotions. That is completely normal. Many people go through a sort of mourning process of four stages, which often overlap each other. Some people might get back to living their lives straight away, while others might need months or even years before they are ready to do that. Those four phases are:

Accepting the reality of the situation
It could be that the news does not fully sink in at first. You simply can’t believe it. You push it away from you. It can take you longer to accept your HIV if you had never thought about the possibility, if you simply heard the result by telephone, or if you did not realise that you had been tested for HIV. That can sometimes happen (although that goes against the guidelines) in connection with a pregnancy or being admitted to hospital.

Allowing yourself to feel your emotions
Often it is only once you really realise that you have HIV, that there will be room for your emotions. What you feel depends a lot on your situation, but it can also differ from person to person. How is it for you? You might be in a state of shock. You might be concerned about your (ex-)partner or about others with whom you have had sex. You might feel dirty and infectious. You might feel no desire to have sex. You might be worried about becoming ill and afraid of dying. You might feel ashamed. You might feel guilty. You might experience utter confusion. Or total panic. You might feel inferior. Or insecure. Everyone experiences it in his or her own way, and it is also possible that you will not have any of those feelings.

Getting used to the idea of living with HIV
This can involve any number of things: Are you planning to tell anyone about your HIV, and if so, who? Or will you keep it to yourself? Are you going to start taking HIV medications straight away, or do you want to wait a while before you start? How are you going to deal with sex? How do you see yourself? And how will others see you if they know that you have HIV? It could be that old emotional suffering will resurface due to your HIV. If you somehow feel uncomfortable with yourself, you may well experience problems now. That is something that you will need to learn to deal with. All these subjects are discussed in this booklet.

Giving HIV a place in your emotional life and getting back to living your life
It could be that your health has been weak for years and that you feel relieved now that you finally know why. You might find it strange, but some people think: ‘Now I don’t have to be afraid for HIV anymore, because I already have it.’ No one hopes to get HIV, but you are going to have to live with it for the rest of your life. You might start to blame yourself: ‘If only I had been more careful...’ Or: ‘If only I had not been so naive.’ But you cannot turn back time, and at this point there is no hope of a medicine that can cure you of HIV. So it is better simply to make peace with your HIV. You and your HIV are inseparably joined forever.

Talk about your  HIV?!
Many people find it helpful to talk to someone who knows about living with HIV. For example, you could talk about your HIV with:

a friend...
Who is a good listener, who also has HIV or who knows other people living with HIV.

your HIV nurse
An HIV nurse is a specialised nurse who works in the hospital where you will be receiving support and treatment for your HIV.

a volunteer at the Hiv Vereniging
If you call the Servicepunt of the Hiv Vereniging (020-689-2577- monday, tuesday and thursday from 2 PM till 10 PM), you can pour out your heart and ask any questions you have.

a volunteer who also has HIV
If you call the Marieke Bevelanderhuis, you can usually arrange to have a one-to-one talk the next day with a volunteer who also has HIV, just like you. Check out the website or call 020-665-2099. You can talk to someone in Dutch, English and various other languages, and they also have an interpreter for the deaf.

other people with HIV
There are all sorts of ways to meet other people with HIV. You can read more about this on page 82.

a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker
If you have psychosocial problems, you can also seek help from mental healthcare professionals (through GGZ) or from social workers (through AMW). With a psychologist or psychiatrist, the discussions you have will generally go a bit deeper. If it turns out that you need antidepressants, a psychiatrist will be able to prescribe those for you, while a psychologist cannot do that. A social worker can also help you with practical things, such as money matters. You may have to wait some time before you can have a series of appointments to talk to someone. In some municipalities there are psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who are specialised in HIV, such as the HIV Team of GGZ inGeest in Amsterdam (020-788-4666) and the Bureau Hiv-hulpverlening (‘HIV Support Office’) of Humanitas Rotterdam (010-425-0107).

a buddy
A buddy is a volunteer who can offer you a listening ear and practical support. Buddies are part of an organisation and are trained in giving people support. You can ask your HIV nurse about which organisation can help you get a buddy, or you can call the Servicepunt of the Hiv Vereniging at 020- 689-2577.

Everyone can get HIV
About four in ten people with HIV in the Netherlands are heterosexual and six in ten are gay or bisexual. About one in five people who are HIV positive is a woman. Approximately four in ten people with HIV in the Netherlands are at least partially of foreign descent.

Women with HIV
Thousands of women in the Netherlands are living with HIV. The condition is the same for men and women, but women may also have to deal with gynaecological problems. And of course there is the issue of pregnancy. With a doctor’s supervision, it is possible for you as an HIV-positive woman to have a healthy baby. People often react differently to women with HIV than to men with HIV, and many women also deal with their HIV differently than men do. Many women live in social isolation, and women are also more apt to ignore their own needs.



Hiv Vereniging Nederland

Eerste Helmersstraat 17


020 6 160 160
>> directions



020 689 25 77

For questions about living with HIV. Available monday, tuesday and thursday from 2 PM till 10 PM

>> read more


Support the association and become a member
>> contact Servicepunt