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HIV and Mental Health

Everyone reacts differently when they find out they have HIV. Many people feel worried, shocked, sad or angry. Talking to other young people living with HIV can really help. Many clinics and HIV organisations run peer support groups for people living with HIV to meet up, chat and offer advice. There are also online forums if you prefer.

There is still a lot of stigma about HIV. Other people’s reactions can affect how well we're able to cope with life's challenges and impact our mental health. When our mental health isn’t good, we can feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. It’s important to find support if you’re struggling with mental health. Unmanaged mental health can affect your HIV treatment and leave you at risk for other illnesses.

Things you can do to look after your mental health

  • Share your worries with a friend or family member  
  • Join a support group for people living with HIV
  • Eat healthy
  • Get fresh air and exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Do things that you enjoy and help you relax, like sports and hobbies
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs
  • Spend time with others

Warning signs to look out for

We all feel sad at times and it’s completely normal. Problems with mental health affect everyone differently but common signs to look out for include:

  • Sadness or tearfulness
  • Struggling to concentrate or remember things
  • Feeling unusually worried or stressed or having lots of negative thoughts
  • Feeling you might try to hurt or harm yourself
  • Experiencing extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Not wanting to go out and staying away from friends and activities that you usually enjoy
  • Feeling really tired or having problems sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits, for example eating lots more or less than usual

Getting help

If you’ve had any of these symptoms for more than a week and feel something isn’t quite right, it’s time to seek help. Talk to your nurse or counsellor about your worries and any questions you have.

HIV & Mental Health Quiz

If you are taking treatment and feel fine you can take a break from the tablets and start again when you feel ill. True or false?

Select one