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Spiritual issues for HIV postive people
Nov 6, 1997

I am a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying women with HIV. I am looking for basic information about the spiritual issues for HIV infected people. I intend to work with people with HIV and AIDS after graduation and would like information on research studies if you are familiar with any. Thank you.

Response from Rev. Pieters

From my perspective, some of the spiritual issues for HIV infected people are:

1) Creating and sustaining hope.

Hope is a vital ingredient to life with HIV. Check out my early columns here at The Body for more information.

2) Facing death.

Even with today's treatments, there are still people dying from the complications of HIV infection. Anyone diagnosed with HIV will undoubtedly experience fear and anxiety around the possibility of dying from it. Most every spiritual system I know of has a way of reassuring or comforting those who are facing death.

3) Engaging in life.

One of the sustaining elements of spirituality is how it can engage us in life. Faith can motivate persons living with HIV to take the extra care needed for healing and sustaining their lives.

4) Believe in the possibilities!

It is essential for persons living with HIV to believe in the possibilities of miracles, and healing, and being fully alive even with a life-threatening infection. Believing is the first step towards making these possibilities happen!

5) Prayer and meditation

Prayer and meditation are important tools to life with HIV/AIDS. It can be a challenge to learn how to pray and meditate on a daily basis. But these are spiritual tools which have been shown to be effective over and over again.

I don't know of any specific research studies on spiritual issues for HIV infected people, although I'm sure they're out there. Many good books have been written on AIDS and spirituality: John Fortunato's "AIDS: The Spiritual Dilemma," The World Council of Churches' "Facing AIDS: The Challenge, the Churches' Response," Patricia L. Hoffman's "AIDS and the Sleeping Church," and the Pilgrim Press's "For Those We Love: A Spiritual Perspective on AIDS" are four such books.

You might also want to check out the UFMCC pamphlets on "Spiritual Strength for Survival," "Choose Life," and "HIV/AIDS: Is It God's Judgment?" all of which are available online here at The Body.

Best of luck with your study!

Not Knowing What to Believe In Anymore

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