By Adrian O’Brien
Just like physical medical treatment, HIV/AIDs patients require care in the form of psychological help. The mental state of people infected by the virus plays a crucial role in their current behavioural, emotional and cognitive state, which in turn can affect their social interactions and sense of self. For example, someone recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDs may try their best to deny this information, consequently ignoring advice and treatment. This sort of avoidance is an ineffective way of coping with the situation as it will lead to detrimental consequences. However, these reactions don’t depend on the diagnosed individual alone, they are also determined by people around them, their social circle, and the environment they are in.
With the fear of being stigmatised, the symptoms of anxiety, depression and their effects on ones self-esteem can often be noted, potentially leading to self-stigmatization and distress. It is also important to emphasise on the effect of society on people with HIV/AIDs. For instance, culture heavily influences how people perceive this condition and social interactions depend on background and understanding of the condition. Misinformation can lead to ignorance and disproportional fear towards people with HIV/AIDs, thereby exposing those people to potential rejection, verbal and physical abuse and isolation. This is true even in the face of the Information Age which allows fast and easy access to enormous amount of data. It is therefore our responsibility to educate and inform.
To prevent this from happening, information dissemination on the subject is fundamental, but in order for the information to be processed correctly, it needs to arrive in the form of care and support from friends, family and society as a whole. Awareness of the potential mental impact HIV/AIDs can have on those suffering from it would allow for a more sensible approach to the condition. Although psychological therapy is available to people with HIV/AIDs, it is up to society to destigmatise and promote an optimistic future where a supportive community is able to provide understanding and empathy. The resolution of this issue isn’t limited to professional help alone, it bleeds into providing security, understanding, compassion, whether it comes from a stranger, friend, family or partner.
National AIDS Trust is a charity that is working to break the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, through education and raising awareness. More information can be found on their website https://www.nat.org.uk/) , where you can also make donations to help their cause!
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