Striking out HIV stigma requires that we are listening to and actively supporting people living with HIV.
We all have a responsibility to build environments that allow people living with HIV to thrive -- physically, emotionally, and socially.
The following was adapted from HIV.gov's website.
What to Do If a Friend or Loved One Tells You They Are Living with HIV
Acknowledge. If someone has disclosed their HIV status to you, thank them for trusting you with their private health information.
Ask. If appropriate, ask if there’s anything that you can do to help them. One reason they may have chosen to disclose their status to you is that they need an ally or advocate, or they may need help with a particular issue or challenge. Some people are public with this information; other people keep it very private. Ask whether other people know this information, and how private they are about their HIV status.
Reassure. Let the person know, through your words or actions, that their HIV status does not change your relationship and that you will keep this information private if they want you to.
Learn. Educate yourself about HIV. Today, lots of people living with HIV are on medication, and have the virus under control. Others are at different stages of treatment and care. Don’t make assumptions, and look to your friend for guidance.
How Can You Support Someone Who Is Newly Diagnosed?
Talk. Be available to have open, honest conversations about HIV. Follow the lead of the person who is diagnosed with HIV. They may not always want to talk about it, or may not be ready. They may want to connect with you in the same ways they did before being diagnosed. Do things you did together before their diagnosis; talk about things you talked about before their diagnosis. Show them that you see them as the same person and that they are more than their diagnosis.
Listen. Being diagnosed with HIV is life-changing news. Listen to your loved one and offer your support. Reassure them that HIV is a manageable health condition. There are medicines that can treat HIV and help them stay healthy.
Learn. Educate yourself about HIV: what it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated, and how people can stay healthy while living with HIV. Having a solid understanding of HIV is a big step forward in supporting your loved one. Knowledge is empowering, but keep in mind that your friend may not want the information right away.
Encourage treatment. Some people who are recently diagnosed may find it hard to take that first step to HIV treatment. Your support and assistance may be helpful. By getting linked to HIV medical care early, starting treatment, adhering to medication, and staying in care, people with HIV can keep the virus under control and prevent their HIV infection from progressing to AIDS. HIV treatment is recommended for all people with HIV and should be started as soon as possible after diagnosis. Encourage your friend or loved one to see a doctor and start HIV treatment as soon as possible. If they do not have an HIV care provider, you can help them find one. There are programs that can provide HIV medical care or help with paying for HIV medications. Use HIV.gov’s HIV Testing Sites and Care Services Locator to find a provider.
Support medication adherence. It is important for people living with HIV to take their HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed. Ask your loved one what you can do to support them in establishing a medication routine and sticking to it. Also ask what other needs they might have and how you can help them stay healthy. Learn more about treatment adherence.