When the Dawn Breaks
Authors: David Miller and Mariel Selbovitz, MPH
If you just found out you’re HIV+, after a deep breath, take a moment and read what a number of long term HIV survivors, AIDS treatment activists and pastors have learned to help successfully navigate through a positive life.
If you’ve just tested positive for HIV, let’s start here. Finding out about surviving HIV is nothing like it was 30 years ago at the dawn of the epidemic.
There’s a fantastic, dynamic community all around the world, waiting to embrace people who have just found out they’re positive, just as they are,
to help manage the fears and overcome the barriers to treatment, the navigation of essential services and the benefits and to master the details
that determine you successfully living with HIV.
We’re closer to a cure then ever. We’re still years away. Getting used to contradictions is part of surviving and thriving with HIV. Your belief system
is going to determine more about the first months of living with HIV then any other element. If you’ve developed a strong personal relationship with
Jesus Christ that’s going to help you get through the moments when nothing makes sense, when your first round of antiretroviral therapy is introducing
you to the wonderful world of side effects, when you are thinking that this is definitely not part of the plan you had for the rest of your life. There are
dozens of new drugs and approaches to advance treatments of HIV, from therapeutic vaccines to gene therapy, advances in HIV research are occurring
everyday. It’s a full time job just to keep up with the advances being made that hundreds of people are dedicated to all over the world.
You will wake up the day after you test positive. If you drink coffee, you may want coffee, just as you had the day before. You may have to show up for
work (so if you’re going to get tested, make sure you do it leaving yourself enough time for dealing with what may be surprising news-), and you may
have to deal with some of the same obligations you had the day before you knew you were positive. If it all seems impossible take a look at Matthew 17:20
"He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'"
We know more about the virus, more about the medications and more about the immune system then ever before. That hard won knowledge is
going to be your best defense, your point of the spear in the fight against HIV. Getting infected may have made you hysterical, sad, angry and
feel hopeless, abandoned, ashamed. We’ve all been there, you’re not alone. . From the other side of testing positive, as things inevitably slow down,
Living with HIV requires getting smarter and the tools have been built for a generation for you to do so faster then you ever believed possible.
Living with HIV has never been easy. Living with HIV has never been easier. There is a mandate for personal responsibility, a recognition of
increasing longevity for those of us with access to treatment and a sense of obligation for all those who don’t.
If you’re wondering what kind of possible purpose you can have now, what your life can mean after you’ve gotten the news, you’re in for a
big surprise. God knows what He’s doing, and if you give him the chance, He’ll prove it. If you’re now living with HIV, even if you’ve received
an AIDS diagnosis from the inception, you may discover that, after you settle in from the shock, the sense of denial, the anger and confusion,
that you’ll now have some compelling personal reasons to try to make a difference like so many people with HIV/AIDS have done before. The
opportunities are endless to change the course of this epidemic, the reasons are clear and there is an amazing level of support available for you
to take full advantage.
Regardless of how you became infected, HIV doesn’t determine you identity, your relationship with God, your salvation through Jesus Christ
or the amount of love and courage you now can share with millions of others like you, who need every advantage they can get, in countries
around the world, where access to treatment for HIV, TB and malaria is very very far from universal. You may come to the conclusion that
sharing with people half a world away the hope you have to pursue for yourself right now, knowing that you’re being provided with treatment
and care denied to so many millions of others, is an essential part of your own survival. Like we said before –contradictions define living with HIV.
You may be surprised to know that one of your best places of support is a church where the Bible is taught, you’re introduced to Jesus Christ
and you are supported and love. Saddleback Church and many other Ministries have done a lot of work to put a lot of great material together
for Pastors and congregations to offer support for people with HIV on a local and global level. HIV doesn’t discriminate, and people from every
walk of life are living with HIV.
Talking to your partner is a whole other discussion…one that takes a lot of preparation and forethought and obviously, is on the forefront of
your concerns, as it will be with other family members. We’re taking one step at a time here.
Don’t expect to feel optimistic all the time, don’t tolerate feeling depressed disproportionately either. You can’t afford the luxury of a negative
thought. Check out Isaiah 41:10 "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will
uphold you with my righteous right hand." And if necessary, don’t be afraid to seek out professional counseling and medical support to deal with
prolonged depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Take a little time to digest what this new chapter in your life CAN become. Living with HIV is only a PART of your life now, not what defines you.
After the dawn, it’ll be a new day and there’s a lot to look forward to.