University of Southern Queensland
The effects of having an illness such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have considerable effects on the individual concerned, in terms of reduced physical and mental health outcomes, economic deficits, and general quality of life. Because of the high level of infectiousness and serious mortality consequences of HIV, changes in a person’s sexual, social and lifestyle behaviours to lessen these effects are needed, which may be difficult to achieve without psychological intervention. It was proposed that all a psychologist can do for someone who is HIV positive is hold their hand. The purpose of this paper was to provide evidence from recent research studies that critiqued this statement. Findings suggested that specific psychological interventions were useful in reducing psychological distress, reducing risky sexual behaviours, and enhancing quality of life. Although the presented research was generally limited by small sample/effect sizes, and generalizability issues, there were demonstrated measurable improvements in psychosocial functioning, which indicated that psychological intervention was beneficial to assist people who are HIV positive in adjusting to the progress/outcomes of their illness, and in improving overall quality of life and well-being.
All a Psychologist Can Do for Someone Who is HIV Positive is Hold Their Hand
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a serious global health issue, in that it is potentially fatal with no known cure, although there have been significant improvements in treatment since the first case of the associated acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was identified in the gay population of the USA in the 1980s (Ogden, 2012). Globally, more than 35 million people now live with HIV or AIDS; in 2013 there were approximately 2.1 million new HIV infections, which represented a decline in the rate of new diagnoses since 2001 (UNAIDS, 2014). In Australia, between 28000 and 34000 people were living with HIV infection in 2012, with around 73% of those diagnosed acquiring HIV through sexual contact between men, 15% through heterosexual contact, and 3% through injecting drug use (DoH, 2014).
HIV is defined as a retrovirus that infects and depletes vital T helper cells (such as the CD4+T cells) which are critical to maintaining the human immune system (Ogden, 2012). Once the CD4+T cell levels fall below a specific critical level, immunity is compromised and the system becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections and illnesses, leading to AIDS (Cohen, & Ankus, 2009). The effects HIV have had a considerable negative influence on the individual concerned, in terms of reduced physical and mental health outcomes (including high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as physical decline, including debilitation from side effects of the antiretroviral treatment), economic deficits (i.e., reduced employment prospects due to the onset of symptoms of the illness), and poorer general quality of life (also due to stigma/isolation, as well as poor sexual health choices and non-adherence to treatment), as well as for their family and community (ABS, 2007; AFAO, 2012). Also, people who may be HIV sero-positive (HIV+) may avoid accessing testing or maintaining adherence to treatments, because of fear of the disease, side effects of medications, financial costs, stigma associated with the disease’s origins, and there being no complete cure (WHO, 2009).
Because of the high level of infectiousness and serious mortality consequences of HIV, changes in a person’s sexual and lifestyle behaviours to lessen these effects are needed, which may be difficult to achieve without assistance (Ogden, 2012). It was proposed that all a psychologist can do for someone who is HIV positive is hold their hand. The purpose of this paper was to