Living with HIV

Being HIV positive

Women make up more than 10% of 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
  • work with your doctor to choose which antiretroviral treatments you take, and the right to change treatment if it isn’t working for you
  • 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
Listen to ‘Our Stories: Ending HIV Stigma‘ a podcast about women, by women living with HIV in Australia to challenge the myths and stereotypes that feed HIV stigma.

You may also like to check out…

  • Our Stories: Ending HIV Stigma is a podcast series about women, by women living with HIV in Australia, to challenge the myths and stereotypes that feed HIV stigma. Produced by Positive Women Victoria in 2021, women share our stories of achieving our personal and career goals, navigating sex and relationships, and our journey through pregnancy and motherhood in this new era of Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U).
  • You can also listen to Living With HIV in 2022: meet Steph Lee. Positive Women Victoria member Steph Lee was a recent guest on the podcast Fair Bit Going On.
  • Life and Love with HIV is a blog and online community dedicated to de-stigmatising sexuality and relationships among women, partners, and couples living with HIV by shifting the focus from risk to pleasure. Come for the blog, stay for the conversation.
  • Next Steps is a useful resource providing an overview of information for people who are recently diagnosed HIV positive.
  • A Girl Like Me (AGLM), a program of The Well Project, is a blog where women (cis and trans) can share their experiences and promote understanding of HIV. Millions of women around the globe are living with HIV, yet many feel they are alone in their disease and isolated in their day-to-day experiences. The goals of AGLM are to help normalise HIV; and to create a safe space for women living with HIV from around the world to speak out and share their experiences – with each other, and with those seeking a support community.