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Getting an initial medical examination

 

Upon learning that you are HIV+, there are many emotions that are ALL normal . Shock, panic, anger, confusion, guilt, sadness, hopelessness. The list could go on and on. Many say that these intense feelings do not last forever, and it's true. They do slowly subside to some degree as we learn more and get involved with our own healthcare. Accepting your new HIV status takes some time and understanding all these feelings plays a major role in the acceptance. Many people simply deny that they are HIV+ and this can be very dangerous, not only to you but to your loved ones as well.

It keeps you from being involved!!

Some people who act on the initial feelings when finding out they have the virus, have run out and quit their jobs, given away possessions, isolated themselves from family and friends and even started making wills and funeral arrangements!! But, as we find out, it's usually a while before we even start to show symptoms and can continue our lives on a daily basis. We need to keep as normal a routine as possible. Being HIV+ does NOT mean you have AIDS. A person with HIV is said to have AIDS when the immune system has lost most of it's ability to fight off illness. Once infected, it takes an average of 10 years or longer to have AIDS. Of course some will progress more rapidly and the HIV tests cannot tell how long you have been infected.

 

One of the first things that needs to be done, is to find a doctor. You may want to call your local health department, look up infectious disease physicians in your phone book or call your area hospital for a referral. Find a physician who is treating others with HIV. I wanted someone who would listen to ME, someone I felt at ease with. I looked for a physician who would take the time to explain things in detail (being a nurse did not help me here--everything I knew at the time about HIV went right out the window!!). I wanted someone I could discuss all my options with when it came time for treatment. I also needed to know that confidentiality would not be breached, even within the physician's office.

 

On my initial visit, these are some of the things that were included:

~a complete history and physical exam

~a complete blood count test (CBC)

~a chemistry panel

~T-cell studies

~TB screening

~screening for sexually transmitted diseases

~gyn exam for women

~vaccines for pneumonia and the flu (if in season)

~EKG

~Chest x-ray

We discussed that there is still no cure for HIV infection but that there are many new medications available that may slow the attack on the immune system. HIV is much more manageable now due to all the research.

We also discussed some basic things such as how HIV is transmitted and how it is NOT. HIV is passed from one person to another when partners have sex without a condom. People who share needles for IV drug use are at high risk. And a pregnant women who is infected with HIV can pass the virus to her baby, either during delivery or by breast-feeding .

I was instructed to get prompt medical attention anytime I feel I am getting sick. As my immune system weakens, I will be more prone to opportunistic infections. Many diseases will show NO signs or symptoms but the immune system still has to work to fight the infections and this may be the cause of some increased fatigue.

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