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What Would You Do?
Apr 8, 1997

I am doing a paper on the feelings of persons affected with the HIV virus and or AIDS. I was wondering what the first thing people think about when they are diagnosed? What would you do? Thank you for your anticipated response, Rev. Thank you Jay Harlow Clark Decker

Response from Rev. Pieters

There are as many different answers to this as there are persons with HIV. Reactions to the diagnosis are very individual and are influenced by a wide variety of factors such as the person's age, socio-economic background, education, knowledge of HIV and AIDS, and access to quality medical care. How a person is told can also affect their reaction. It's probably a fair guess that most people when first diagnosed think about death and life and how to fight for life.

That being said, it is quite normal for newly diagnosed persons to feel fear. They may experience fear of dying and death, fear of the disease process and pain, fear of treatment, fear of doctors, nurses, and hospitals, fear of losing control of one's life, and fear of isolation and abandonment. Many of these fears are based in lack of knowledge. We fear the unknown. But part of the fear can be caused by images we already have of what it's like to live with HIV/AIDS. My physician helped me with my fear at diagnosis by immediately educating me about HIV and the cancers I had. She also helped me explore all the options I could choose to take care of myself and create the conditions for healing in my body. This went a long way in battling my fear.

Others may feel hopelessness and despair upon receiving the news. Hopelessness happens when we feel helpless to do anything about our situation. As soon as we begin to discover all the things we can do to help ourselves, we begin to move away from despair into hope. Hope is created by taking positive action. And there is a lot you can do to help yourself live with HIV and AIDS (see my article, "Choose Life.")

Talk to persons living with HIV and AIDS. Find out what their experiences have been. Read the newsletters of many AIDS organizations which carry the first-person stories of many persons with HIV/AIDS. Keep your heart open to the diversity of experiences HIV brings.

Psychosocial issues concerning the patient, family, friends, and society

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