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What kind of support group do I want/need?
Jun 2, 2011

I've been HIV since the mid 80s & have done relatively well living with HIV. Now, I have a couple other medical issues & they seem to be muddying the waters as I seek some a support group or therapy. I have AVN which has pretty much destroyed both my hips. I got one replaced without problems, but the pre-op exams for the other hip replacement turned up stage IV lung cancer. So, now I'm getting ready for chemo & still have a bum hip that is painful. I was referred to a mental health provider who handles people living with AIDS, but they do not work with seniors & I am 68 years old. It seems that once you pass 65, you are supposed to be dead, healed, or not in need of mental health services. Someone did suggest a geriatric group in a distant part of my city, San Francisco. Do I just forget about the AIDS part of my situation?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Situations like yours are becoming increasingly common as the population of individuals living with HIV ages. You will not find a group specifically tailored to match all your conditions, but I would make a priority of finding a mental health provider familiar with 1) geriatrics and 2) chronic illness. While each medical problem has its own issues, the mental health aspects are relatively similar, and include a range of emotions from grief to anger as well as issues of support - both social and physical. If possible, I would try to find both an individual therapist as well as some form of support group to counteract the isolation that can become a significant risk factor as all one's energy is expended on medical appointments and treatments. You will also find that many of the personal characteristics that gave you resilience in living with HIV since the 1980s can be transferred to your present medical concerns, allowing you to draw on strengths in the current situation. -David



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