Many of the challenges to our emotional health are rooted in low self-esteem. Even prior to an HIV diagnosis, many people have struggled with low self-esteem as a result of experiences in their early life, such as bullying or social exclusion. HIV can add to this feeling. At the same time, many people find that the discovery that successful treatment makes their HIV sexually untransmittable (U=U) has boosted their self-esteem. It allows them to feel more open to love and gives them a sense of sexual freedom.

“For years, low self-esteem and a sense of low self-worth prevented me from pursuing my dream as an artist and I listened to people who said it was hard to make it as an artist. More importantly, I listened to myself when I said, “I’m not good enough.”

Low self-esteem can make it difficult to live a healthy and happy life with HIV. Addressing our emotional problems often starts with learning how to feel better about ourselves.

You may experience unfair treatment (discrimination) as a person with HIV, whether on the job or when applying for services, assistance or housing. You may find yourself confronted with other people’s negative ideas about HIV and the people who have it (this is called stigma). Such experiences can harm your self-esteem. It is important to know that there are laws and policies to help you take action if you feel you are being discriminated against as a person living with HIV.