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Psychiatry. 1987 May;50(2):184-91.

Fear of AIDS.


A specter is haunting our streets--the specter of AIDS, a remorseless and incurable disease whose nature, transmission and effects still contain elements of mystery. The fear of AIDS is pervasive. Most of us experience this fear as an uneasy but usually abstract awareness of its presence in the society. This awareness, however, may be jolted into something more concrete and immediate when we need to make or react to such decisions as whether our children should attend school with an AIDS victim or whether to require tests for the presence of AIDS antibodies (ELISA test) in food handlers and health workers. But populations at risk of infection with AIDS face a fear of a different quality. For hemophiliacs requiring the transfusion of blood products, for users of contaminated needles, even under certain circumstances for those who engage in heterosexual intercourse, infection with AIDS has to be a real issue. For homosexuals with an active sex life the fear is constant; ways must be found to come to terms with it. In this presentation I shall offer a series of vignettes illustrating reactions to the threat of AIDS that range from the distinctly maladaptive to the appropriately adaptive. I shall discuss some of the psychodynamic mechanisms operative in these cases and make general observations about the fear of AIDS in target populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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