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AIDS Care. 1993;5(1):71-8.

AIDS and the family: implications for counselling.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, KY 40202.


The presence of HIV spectrum illness stimulates a powerful emotional reaction from a patient's family and friends. Grief and shock over the infection, and its implications are frequent observations. Sadness, anxiety, helplessness and anger are also common. Health care staff should address these responses in order to strengthen coping skills and maximize interpersonal comfort. Stigmatization and isolation are major stressors. Bereavement is complicated by fear, shame, dependency and hopelessness. Therefore, a task in counselling is to maintain the integrity and supportiveness of the patient's social unit by encouraging open communications between those involved and by educating about AIDS. Information should be provided on HIV transmission, self-protection, and illness progression as well as the safety of causal contacts and the practices of 'safer sex'. The significant others should retain outside interests and be encouraged to seek help for patients from supportive social agencies. Instillation of hope lends benefit to patient, family and friends. Kind, non-judgmental counselling and good quality medical care should be made available, especially since HIV-related disorders are increasingly becoming a chronic disease. Advocacy for the significant others translates into better adjustment and it enhances the patient's medical prognosis.

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