Living with HIV & AIDS

It is estimated that nearly 40 million people around the world are living with HIV and AIDS. Amongst these people only one in ten have been tested and know their HIV status i. With thousands of people becoming newly infected every day, including some 6000 young people, HIV and AIDS continues to be a devastating virus that affects the lives of people, families, communities, and nations.

iiIn hard hit countries, like Botswana and Swaziland where the rate of infections are some of the highest in the world, up to one quarter or more of the population is living with HIV or AIDS.

Since HIV and AIDS affect so many people, it is crucial that HIV positive people have their fundamental rights protected. Providing people who are HIV positive adequate access to proper health and education services must be made a priority in order to help them receive treatment and increase their life chances. One way in which they must be protected includes: protection against discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, or HIV status.

Unfortunately, people living with HIV and AIDS often face many social, economic, and political challenges because of the historical stigma and fear associated with the illness. Today more than ever there is hope of a fulfilling life as an HIV or AIDS positive person. Due to the development of new and more effective antiretroviral drug treatments people living with HIV and AIDS are able to live longer and healthier lives than was possible even a decade ago. In countries like the United States, Canada, and various countries in Europe, antiretroviral drugs are cheaper and more available; though the prices of treatment are still quite high. In many developing countries on the other hand, one of the main challenges is the issue of accessibility, distribution, and the high pricing of antiretroviral drugs which prevented those most in need from getting them.

What are some of the challenges that people living with HIV face?

Many of the people living with HIV and AIDS fall into vulnerable groups i.e. they are faced with various economic and social disadvantages. Increasingly, the populations of persons that are overrepresented in HIV and AIDS cases are women, persons of color, children, and other social groups who are disadvantaged by limited educational opportunities and financial resources amongst other factors iii. Furthermore, many of the people who are infected with HIV and AIDS may face other challenges like mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness.

What are some ways to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV and AIDS?iv

  • Helping to facilitate and improve access to treatment for people living with HIV
  • Providing accurate and easily accessible information to people living with HIV
  • Actively promoting and protecting the human rights of people living with HIV
  • Promoting the involvement of people living with HIV in all levels of decision making within governments, NGOs, and communities and families.
  • Promoting social acceptance of people living with HIV and to actively dispel stereotypes and myths about the disease and the people that are affected by it.
  • Providing opportunities for networking among people living with HIV.

What are some ways that a person who is HIV positive can prolong their life prospects?

Researchers have identified various characteristics that are common among long term survivors of HIV and AIDS. Among the long term survivors studied, all of them were good consumers of medical care, meaning that they took their medications as prescribed and followed the recommendations and orders of their healthcare providers. These long term survivors were also active participants in their medical care. Many reported that they had excellent relationships with their doctors. Several people in the study said they had experimented with doctors in the beginning until they found the one who best suited their needs v.

According to this same study, researchers found that long term survivors also had a low rate of clinical depression, also scoring high on hopefulness vi. Furthermore, the long term survivors were less likely to engage in denial as a coping strategy, they showed signs of pragmatism and a strong interest in the quality of their life. Another one of their common characteristics was that they did not necessarily consider being infected with AIDS a death sentence. Rather, they continued to set goals for themselves, as they looked to their futures. They also reported that they had a desire to live and they played an active role in ensuring that they stayed alive. In general these long term survivors were self-empowered individuals who had hope for their futures regardless of their HIV positive statusvii.