“We live in a completely interdependent world which simply means we cannot escape each other. How we respond to AIDS depends, in part, on whether we understand this interdependence. It is not someone else’s problem. This is everybody’s problem.” – Bill Clinton
HIV/AIDS… What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear or come across this word? Is it fear, apprehension, stigma, discrimination, anxiety, depression, stress? Well, you may get mixed reactions and feelings when you hear this word. The repercussion of HIV is much more than the nomenclature itself. If you have ample knowledge or awareness about it then it is a good thing. But, if you do not know much about it then it may disturb you knowingly or in unknowing silent ways. Before getting into the mental health aspects of HIV/AIDS let me tell you quickly about its general information:
HIV/AIDS stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the primary form of infection while AIDS is full blown HIV infection. It starts with influenza-type symptoms and then progresses into different opportunistic infections. People living with HIV/AIDS have to check on two things. One is the CD4 count while the other one is ART. Since HIV weakens the white blood cells, so the CD4 count is very much important. The less the CD4 count in blood, less will be the immune power of the infected person. If the CD4 count is very less, then the person will have to start the Anti-Retroviral Treatment or ART. Therefore, knowing about HIV/AIDS and how it can be managed is very important.
The whole incidence of HIV/AIDS; the physical, psychological and social effects of it and above all the stigma and discrimination attached to it are sometimes overwhelming to bear for the ones who are suffering from it. People living with HIV/AIDS come across many challenging situations that exert a lot of negative effect on their mental health too. Some of them are:
Depression is one of the common aftermaths when one comes to know that he/she is HIV positive. This brings in different symptoms like low moods, feelings of isolation, suicidal feelings, changes in sleep and diet patterns, lack of socialization and so on. Depression is very important to be dealt with in HIV/AIDS cases. Because if one does not come out of it, then it becomes very difficult for him/her to manage the symptoms of HIV.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Getting anxious over everything and any thing is the characteristic feature of GAD. Sometimes, people living with HIV/AIDS experience GAD symptoms too.
Despite of being tested HIV Positive; one of my clients (while I was working as a full time counselor for PLHIV in India) always did home-based HIV test till he breathed his last. Death anxiety is also one of the common issues that PLHIVs face right from the moment they are tested positive. This is quite obvious because who would want to die out of illness and drudgery?
Hallucinations and Delusions
Along with making the immune system weak and leading to various bodily opportunistic infections, HIV/AIDS also affect the brain chemistry and mechanism. That is why some people suffering from HIV/AIDS also experience hallucinations, delusions, clinical mental health ailments, etc.
Apart from the above mental health ailments that I have said, people living with HIV/AIDS have to deal with multitude of stressors and pressures, frustration and challenges on an everyday basis. This is due to their own personal thought patterns, the others who are related to them, their professional side, prejudice, social stigma and discrimination.
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