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Spiritual Support and HIVSpiritual Support and HIV
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Support for HIV positive friend
Apr 22, 1998

I just found out yesterday that a good friend of mine at work has been diagnosed HIV positive. Stems from a rape two years ago. My friend is 49, female and jewish. She has already begun experiencing health problems related to the HIV; i.e. she has been receiving protocol treatments for "mack" (not sure if I spelled right but evidently targets certain organs and colonizes - in her case is the lungs and she almost died from pneumonia the first of the year. I've known something was going on with her health for the last year or so but she did not confide in me until yesterday. Her mental outlook seems pretty good right now but I would like to know what I can do as her fried to be supportive. I'm touched that she trusted me enough to confide in me and I care about her. I know very little about HIV and Aids but intend to educate myself. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Response from Rev. Pieters

The fact that you're consulting The Body here shows you're starting to help and support your friend already! The Body can provide you with an enormous amount of current information about living with HIV/AIDS. Keeping up with the latest facts can be tremendously helpful to your friend. Consult your local AIDS Service Organization or your local AIDS Hotline for information and resources.

A great way to be supportive of a friend living with HIV or AIDS is just to be with the person, wherever they are in their journey. Sometimes your friend may need to act like nothing's different (denial can be a blessing, as long as it doesn't keep you from proper self-care). Sometimes she may need to grieve the loss of normalcy. Sometimes she may be angry or afraid. And sometimes she may be just plain needy. A good friend will be supportive in different ways, depending on the needs.

Living with AIDS can be a roller-coaster ride because there are so many factors that challenge us. As a good friend, you can go for the ride with us, accepting the fact that somedays you may need to run errands, or run interference. Other days we who live with HIV or AIDS may need to feel helpful, and you can relax and let them help you with something. Sometimes we may need a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand, just for some reassurance. And sometimes we may need to be left alone.

My model for ministry is "Immanuel" which means "God With Us." It doesn't mean "God rescuing us" or "God over us" but "God with us." God is with us in our joys and our hurts, helping us where possible, but allowing us to experience the fullness of life on earth. As a minister, and as a friend, I try to follow that model in being with a person with love, understanding, and compassion.

Go for the ride gracefully with your friend, and you will find God right there with you!

many, many thanks
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