Being tested HIV positive raises the probability of having AIDS. To be diagnosed with AIDS is to have death knocking on your door. The individual diagnosed with AIDS knows that the death sentence has been passed. It is a condition with no known cure yet.
Of all the life-threatening illnesses that are present, being infected with AIDS brings about a stigma that no other illness does. Lack of information adds to this stigma. Rejection and social ostracism aggravates the plight of the infected patients.
Having AIDS doesn’t just bring the patient’s life to a standstill; it affects the patient’s family and loved ones as well. The false notion that you can catch the virus by associating by the patient is still prevalent. It is this ignorance that leads to the patients being avoided and discriminated against. It is also ignorance about how actually the virus spreads, makes one vulnerable to it.
The infections or illnesses that come in the wake of AIDS can be treated to a certain extent. Though, it is more like buying time. The patient can take care of themselves by being regular with their medication, proper nutrition, therapy to deal with the illness and an attempt to live as normally as then can. And all that you can do for someone whom you know has AIDS, is to support them.
You can start by –
- Accepting – abandoning the person or being judgmental is the worst thing you can do when they have shared this private information with you. This will break the morale of the patient and make them feel diseased. Accept the information and the person and help them deal with the condition with your support.
- Talking – talk to the patient. Share your thoughts and feelings. They, too, may be feeling that way or ten times more. Sharing will help you understand each other’s’ fears and doubts. It will also let the patient know that they are not alone and you are there with them.
- Being well-informed – read up literature to understand the facts about the illness. No one dies because of AIDS. People die because of the infections and secondary diseases that are caused due to a weak immune system. The body’s defense system collapses and leaves it susceptible to attacks from any form of infection to any part of the body.
- Hand holding the patient – remember that the patient is traumatized with the infection. They require emotional support and understanding from their loved ones. This will give them the boost they require to keep their spirits up.
- Joining support groups – this helps in coping with the illness – not just for the patient but also for the close ones of the patient. It helps you better in dealing with the situation – mentally and emotionally. To have a support system to fall back onto makes it a little easier to cope with what the illness brings.
- Getting self-therapy – having your loved one suffering with AIDS would take a toll on you. There may be a wide range of emotions felt including anger and shame. Because of the stigma associated with AIDS, you may not be comfortable sharing the news of the illness with other friends – something which you may have done in case of another life – threatening illness like cancer. Visiting a psychotherapist will help you understand and manage yourself better.
At the end of it all, it is this love, understanding and support extended towards a patient suffering from AIDS that gives them the courage to fight the illness.