Nov 23, 2012

HIV and Stress Management

Ridhyut  called our  Helpline to share that his sister had tested HIV positive. Her husband had died of AIDS recently and she came to live with his family. He expressed his fear about the degree of risk and enquired what precautions he must take to protect his family. He also wanted to know about medication she should use. His neighbors had already started to ostracize his family and he felt extremely stressed and depressed.

Response: The counselor explained the modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS to Ridhyut. He was also made aware that the virus is not an air borne disease, and that it does not spread by eating together, living together, or through spit, sneeze and/or the use of common toilets, etc.

The precautions to be taken and management of HIV/AIDS was explained. Since the client’s sister was not under the treatment of a doctor, he was advised to consult a doctor and ensure that she get treated for any opportunistic infections. The importance of both physiological and psychological management was explained. Calls to center was encouraged whenever the need to talk to a counselor or felt lonely and depressed was felt. The client was also referred to the district ICTC center for direct counseling as he was from Karimnagar.

Sriveni, a 38-year-old widow, had an illicit relationship with her brother-in-law. The brother in law remained  consistently ill. One day he left the house  leaving behind a note that said he was leaving the house because of his illness and would return only after he was well. After a while, Sriveni  fell ill and went to the hospital for a checkup. She tested positive for HIV. She was very depressed and had suicidal thoughts so when she called was asked to  drop in at the call center for direct counseling.

Response: A depressed Sriveni  was counseled. Counseling was as she was very depressed. She was provided with complete information about HIV/AIDS. It was also informed that with proper management of HIV/AIDS people could live for more number of years. She also wanted treatment for opportunistic infection. She followed the counselor’s advice, underwent clinical counseling and sessions and underwent the treatment. She is coping well and there are no suicidal tendencies.

Dealing with these cases above brought a thought to my mind to pen down HIV/AIDS and Stress as we are nearing world HIV/AIDS Day on 1st December 2012.

When a person is diagnosed with HIV it is not only the physical issues  but the person has to deal with   the emotional and mental issues.
People with HIV infected are under immense stress.-the emotional stress of living with a terminal illness, social stress of friends and families reactions to the illness, ongoing stress of constant medical tests and screenings, stigma and discrimination are some of the stressors.

Stress has a number of negative effects, but the worst is that it weakens the immune system. The negative mental state such as denial, anger, fear, anxiety depression, makes it difficult enough for someone with HIV to cope with.  This impact on mental health can make it nearly impossible to find enjoyment or pleasure in life.

Most people are thunder struck, aghast, when they learn that they have been infected with HIV. Some people feel overwhelmed by the changes that they will need to make in their lives. It is normal to have strong reactions when you find out you are HIV positive, including feelings such as fear, anger, and a sense of being overwhelmed. Often people feel helpless, sad, and anxious about the illness.

Denial: People after finding out about HIV positive status often deal with the news by denying that it is true. You may believe that the HIV test was not accurate or that there was a mix-up with the result,  this is a natural and normal first reaction. However even after several confirmatory test if result is true positive then also if the person is not accepting the result then he is in a state of denial and if the state of denial  gets prolonged it’ s important to see a counselor or therapist
Anger: Anger is another common and natural feeling related to being diagnosed with HIV. Many people are upset about how they got the virus or angry that they didn't know they had the virus or how could they get the virus.
Stress: Stress is a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy. A condition or circumstance (not always adverse), which can disturb the normal physiological and psychological functioning of an individual. In HIVaffected people stress weakens the immune system which can lead to various other complications
Sadness or depression: A natural reaction after knowing the HIV positive status is to feel sad, worried, develop fear, anxiety. If, over time, you find that the sadness doesn't go away or is getting worse, talk with your doctor, counselor or therapist or someone else you trust. You may be depressed.
Now what to do?
No matter what you are feeling, you have a right to feel that way. There is no "wrong" or "right" feelings, Feelings come and go. You have choices about how you respond to your feelings.
It is important that you talk out your feelings with your doctor, a therapist, or someone you trust. It is important to do this so that you can begin to receive the care and support you need.
Try to get some exercise-- When you are nervous, angry, or upset try exercise or some other kind of physical activity, like gardening, walking, yoga, meditation or join a support group if you know of one otherwise ask your doctor or counsellor--to relieve some of the negative emotions you may be experiencing.
Another key to dealing with stress is learning the value of self-care. Be sure you get enough rest and eat well. You may consider taking time to exercise, get a massage, or talk with friends too selfish. But if you become overwhelmed by stress, then you will burn out mentally, physically, or emotionally. Try to find a balance between giving and receiving help. If you are irritable from lack of sleep or if you are not eating right, you will have less energy to deal with stressful situations. If stress keeps you from sleeping, you should ask your doctor for help.
Bring it out. A good cry can bring relief to your anxiety, and prevent a headache or other physical problem. Also you can release your stress by taking some deep breaths.