Emotional wellbeing and mental health

Michael Carter, Greta Hughson

Life with HIV can involve emotional stresses and strains. Finding out that you have HIV can lead to a wide range of feelings. Commonly reported feelings after diagnosis include shock, fear, worry, guilt, shame, anger and sadness. Other people feel numb and overwhelmed, and some feel a sense of relief to have found out.

People’s feelings about having HIV often change over time, so your initial response to finding out that you have HIV is unlikely to last. Many people find that they gradually ‘come to terms’ with having HIV. But starting or changing treatment, fearing side-effects, or becoming ill, can all be sources of anxiety or cause emotional distress and can involve a revisiting or reconsideration of feelings about life with HIV. 

Events in your life such as the breakdown of a relationship, bereavement, work problems, immigration difficulties or financial worries can also have an impact on your emotional wellbeing.

It is important to recognise that there are things you can do to look after your emotional wellbeing. Support from friends and family can be very helpful and many people receive support from other people living with HIV. There’s professional help available too.

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this section.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.