The Physical and Psychological Effects of AIDS

The reality of AIDS has insinuated itself into everyday life and language over the past decade. Though looked at as a foreigner, AIDS is in our entire society; employment, homes, and our intimate relationships. People with the AIDS virus feel trapped and have a desire to break away from the bondage that this horrible disease has with the person. However, running from the issue at hand only makes the problem worse. With one’s own strength and the loving support of others a positive result can be attained.

Ignorance is the main problem with AIDS today. Too many people are judgmental about the disease without having any knowledge of its nature. AIDS is a disease caused by the human immune deficiency virus, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which destroys one’s natural ability to fight illnesses (Rodger et al. 498). HIV is the generally accepted name for the virus, however, other types have been discovered, the most common being HIV-1. HIV related illnesses include the direct effects of the virus and the effects of opportunistic infections. When a person becomes infected with the HIV virus, it causes a breakdown of the body’s immune system. This breakdown lowers the immune system significantly causing the HIV virus to develop into full-blown AIDS and other harmful illnesses such as pneumonia and cancers, ultimately causing death (Rodger et al. 499).

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The transmission of the AIDS virus can occur in variety of ways, the most common is through unprotected sexual activity. This allows the exchange of bodily fluids between an infected and uninfected person, heterosexual or homosexual. Infected intravenous drug users also transmit the virus through the blood of a shared syringe or other drug paraphernalia. The virus can also be transmitted during a blood transfusion with contaminated blood. The final way of transmission is from mother to child, an infected mother can infect her child through her breast milk (Clarke 86).

The window of time from the date of HIV infection to the development of full-blown AIDS can be longer than ten years. A person receives a diagnosis of AIDS after one of the opportunistic diseases develops. Much has been accomplished regarding the knowledge of the AIDS virus since its discovery in the early 1980’s, however, even as medical treatments become stronger and offer more hope to the victims, AIDS still does not have a vaccine to cure theses victims (Clarke 92).

With the knowledge of having no permanent cure, AIDS patients tend to question the illness, the people surrounding them, and also their own life. When a person is suffering in life, they experience physical and psychological threats. These threats appear to be stronger than the person’s own resources (Rodger et al. 501). The annihilation of individuality, the feeling of being overwhelmed by an uncontrollable force, is the greatest threat to a human being. The AIDS virus greatly effects the victim’s self esteem, body image, independence, environment, and relationships. AIDS is that uncontrollable force that threatens so many people in the world.

One’s body is their frame of reference, their means of expression, and a foundation for establishing and maintaining relationships. The body is a way to express thoughts, along with a means to relate with the world. When one’s frame of reference is changed, their personality changes as well (Clarke 87). The AIDS virus also effects an individual’s body independence. A person’s independence gives courage and strength to attempt and accomplishment of personal goals. The virus makes the victim feel the exact opposite, completely powerless. Psychological theory explains that people affected by AIDS feel helpless due to trauma, traumatic stress reactions, or depression (Tsasis 555). The victims’ interaction with their environment also causes these feelings of hopelessness. When a person is well, they are able to control receptivity to outside stimuli that involves surrounding information, but an infected person lacks that control. That sense of control is especially lost in a hospital setting. In this environment their world is altered from a comfortable locale to a foreign place. The individual no longer has control over where they are placed, with whom, or the neighboring stimuli (Tsasis 557).

The illness drastically alters a person’s ability to relate to others, causing loneliness and emptiness. The patient is forced to be distant from others because of the contagiousness of the disease and the patients’ need for rest. Patients are aware at times of their loneliness, although at other times they are oblivious. The distinction between the two states is found through personal contact; the need for it, and the ability to achieve it. A victim of AIDS, when physically and psychologically challenged and weakened, may feel unsupported, even distant from a community where values, ideals, and faith were nurtured and shared. A person’s mentality is affected by the relationships with others, and also with the relationship with themselves. People are entitled to have opinions of others and themselves. A person with AIDS questions and devalues their own self-worth, and the value of their own individuality (Rodger et al. 503).

People that have contracted AIDS no longer live in the right state of mind. These victims fight so hard against this horrible disease to the point of guilt, rejection, and depression. At times they question the reason of living under this condition. To help ease these feelings patients turn to AIDS-related psychotherapy. This therapy gives the patient the choice of fighting the fear of living with AIDS or fighting the fear of dieing with AIDS (Rodger et al. 504).

An infected person uses psychotherapy to help deal with life, the illness itself, and unfortunately in some cases prepare for death. Death is a reality, be it a month or a number of years, of the AIDS virus. HIV-related psychotherapy educates, explains important issues, and prepares the victim for other difficulties that arise. The imminence ness of a shortcoming is the foundation for HIV-related psychotherapy (Rodger et al. 502). Patients who utilize psychotherapy are often having great difficulty confronting the changes in their lives brought on by the virus.

Psychotherapists employ the knowledge and techniques of several schools of therapy. The important aspect is the assessment and evaluation of what the needs and then the application of treatment in a proficient manner. Psychotherapy requires the infected patient and their family to understand the virus itself, the conventional methods of treatment, and the knowledge of crisis intervention techniques (Clarke 88). The main goals of psychotherapy are to help the patient plan for the future, and to help cope with the illness.

Coping with the illness does not cure the patient, but it allows for the healing of the rage over an unjust world. The indulgence of rage allows the dissipation oppression, and acceptance of the disease. With acceptance comes the rejection of unhealthy pretentiousness, and the ability to work through hatred. Being able to come to terms with the illness may not make the person entirely happy, but the victim will be at peace. At peace with the satisfaction of knowing that life will continue, and can still be filled with wonderful moments and beautiful memories.

Once the patient reaches this point of understanding, the psychotherapists must act as an agent. The agent enables the patient, who is infected with a socio-politically-loaded chronic illness to rejoin society. This is because AIDS patients are like no other. Generally AIDS patients have felt different from other patients of different illnesses. People infected with HIV or AIDS feel they have been excluded from society. Many AIDS patients contribute in their own exclusion by continuing the same feelings of guilt, shame, and separateness (Rodger et al. 501). The ultimate step in psychotherapy is preparing for the upcoming events. With the help of the therapists, the patient employs several techniques such as paper-and-pencil goal setting, time lines, or investigating what undermined goal accomplishment in the past (Tsasis 556).

Psychotherapy is not the only source of help AIDS patients have available to them. Many patients use the love of family and friends, meditation, and a healthy diet and stress free living. Although many of these methods of treatment may not save the life of a patient, these methods do make the days that are left more enjoyable. AIDS is a disease, but in no way should it be shunned on, nor should the victims of AIDS be viewed as outcasts. AIDS and HIV are two horrific diseases that completely take control of one’s body without consent.

Clarke, Jennifer MD. “Use of Antiretroviral Therapies by HIV-Infected Persons Receiving Methadone Maintenance.” Journal of Addictive Diseases 19 (2000): 85-94.

Rodger, Allison J., et al. “A Certain Fate: The Spread of HIV.” AIDS Care 12

(2000): 497-504.

Tsasis, Peter. “The Multidimensional Context of HIV/AIDS Patient Care.” AIDS

Patient Care and STDs 14 (2000): 555-559.

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The Physical and Psychological Effects of AIDS. (2018, Jul 03). Retrieved from