Learning that you have HIV presents many challenges, including the question of when to start taking the powerful meds that control the virus (and which ones to take). The first step? Take a deep breath.

“You don’t have to rush into taking meds,” says Barbara Zeller, MD, medical director of New York City’s HELP/PSI, a comprehensive HIV care program. “There’s time to understand how the virus works and how treatment works and to make sure you have people to help you. The single most important thing,” Zeller adds, “is to come through the door and get medical care—and to keep coming back.”        

For some people, testing HIV positive means reevaluating health and living choices. As one woman wrote on POZ.com, “HIV [may] be a burden, but so are a lot of things in life, like diabetes and other diseases. You make adjustments, but life is good. I am going back to school to get my PhD—an older woman with HIV! Your life isn’t over unless you let it be.”