Living with HIV

Being HIV positive

Women make up more than 2,000 of the almost 30,000 people living with HIV in Australia. While HIV affects everyone differently, women often face particular challenges.

Being HIV positive illustration

Women with HIV are diverse in terms of education, ethnicity, sexuality and where and how they choose to live their lives. There is no ‘typical’ woman with HIV because HIV is a virus that can infect anyone.

HIV antiretroviral treatments have radically improved and now offer most people with HIV a long and healthy life — working, studying, relationships, travel, having children, looking after your families, and doing all kinds of things you enjoy. While dealing with a chronic medical condition is not always easy, many women have found that staying optimistic and taking practical steps to stay physically and mentally healthy can produce great results.



Taking some time to sort out how you feel is important. Getting an HIV diagnosis can be overwhelming and people frequently experience a range of emotions — all of which are normal. Over time, your way of dealing with your HIV diagnosis will change so take the time and space you need to think through what is happening and how it affects your particular situation. If you are struggling, consider talking to a close friend or speaking to a counsellor or peer support worker at an HIV community organisation.


Being informed about HIV will help you make choices and get greater control over your life. There is still no cure for HIV but you can do lots of things to keep your immune system healthy and to prevent illness. Your doctor can explain your treatment options and there are many other things you can do, like exercising, eating well and generally being kind to yourself. Taking an active role in your health care can help keep you well. For more information see keeping well.


Getting support from friends or family can make all the difference but it’s useful to think carefully about who you want to tell and when you want to tell them. How are they likely to react? Will they be supportive? Will they keep your information private? If you’re unsure who to tell or don’t want to talk to your regular support network yet, consider a chat with a counsellor or peer support worker at one of the many well established HIV community organisations. They can also put you in touch with positive women networks which can help you feel stronger and less isolated.

Remember, as a woman with HIV you have the right to:

  • choose when and if you tell people about your HIV status
  • take control of your health and make your own decisions about how you live with HIV
  • choose which antiretroviral treatments or therapies you use, including the right to decide when to start treatments
  • a full and active sex life
  • have children
  • work and to make changes to the way you work
  • high quality health care in an environment which is supportive, sensitive and free from discrimination

You may also like to check out…

  • Next Steps is a useful resource providing an overview of information for people who are recently diagnosed HIV positive.
  • My Positive Journey is a kit produced by Positive Women Victoria. Conceived and written by 32 women from around Australia, the kit explores diagnosis, disclosure, discrimination, new relationships, taking care of yourself and the future. By sharing their experiences, the authors hope to ‘light the pathway’ and help other positive women navigate the challenges and complexities of living with HIV.
  • What would I tell the newly diagnosed me? is a film which shares some great insights by positive people diagnosed some time ago.
  • Songs in the blood is a radio documentary telling the stories of ten diverse HIV-positive Australian women.