HIV and AIDS: psychological effects of this disease

HIV and AIDS: these two words refer to a painful reality very present in our lives. HIV infection and its progression to AIDS is, along with cancer and dementia, one of the serious diseases for which science has yet to find a cure.

In the case of HIV, in addition to the effects of the disease itself, we find that this poses a strong social stigma. And it is that the detection of the human immunodeficiency virus and the idea of ​​suffering and living with AIDS is a blow that can cause serious psychological problems.

This article aims to reflect the psychological difficulties that the HIV-positive person may go through, Especially in the first few moments.

    HIV and AIDS: what are they?

    Before going into detail on the psychological effects of their detection and suffering, it is important to note that, although related, HIV and AIDS are not synonymous.

    The acronym HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, a retrovirus which affects the human immune system and causes a progressive deterioration thereof by multiplying and destroying lymphocytes (cells of the immune system) of said system. People living with HIV they are known to be HIV positive, And can last up to ten years without obvious symptoms.

    Acquired AIDS or immunodeficiency syndrome refers to the later stages of this disease, in which HIV has rendered the immune system unable to respond adequately to infections. These infections are called opportunistic.

      Infection and infection

      The forms of transmission of this disease, known today by a large majority of the population, are through contact between different types of mucous membranes and fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluids and blood.

      More precisely, the most common form of infection is unprotected sexual contact (Whether vaginal or anal), followed by contagion through blood contact when sharing syringes or razor blades. A mother-to-child infection can also occur in pregnant women who are not undergoing treatment, both during childbirth and breastfeeding.

      On a sexual level, it should also be borne in mind that some affected people believe that because of their condition, they may have unprotected sex with other people who are HIV positive. It is important to note that this is not correct because this virus is highly mutable and has several strains, So that a person infected with one type of strain can become infected with others and produce superinfection with HIV.

        Pass the competition

        We have unprotected sex or prick our feet with a syringe thrown in a park. Maybe it was an oversight, or maybe the subject believed their sexual partner looked healthy and had no infections. We may also have been sexually assaulted. After experiencing the practice at high risk, one may fear that the person in question may be HIV positive and, with uncertainty, panic and anxiety may arise.

        The next step would be to take the test. This is a fundamental and very important aspect of power. start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible and at the same time prevent contagion. But many people are afraid and even avoid taking the test for fear it will turn out positive.

        This is a serious prejudice to them in all areas, because in the event of ailment delays the treatment of this disease, it is easier to infect other people, and at the same time raises doubts about his possible suffering, which in turn will generate a deep and continuing level of frustration, anxiety and fear.

        Detection problems

        It should be noted that there is a window period during which no test is reliable, To be able to give negative despite suffering from infection. This is because the immune system has not yet developed antibodies against the virus, at which point seroconversion occurs. This period is usually between three and six months, although it can be extended as appropriate (for example, in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy).

        However, many people do not realize the risk they are at or believe they might be infected by not perceiving obvious symptoms, either in themselves or in their sexual partners. This can cause the subject to go untreated and even be able to infect others without knowing their HIV status.

        for that it is essential to sensitize the population (Especially at high risk) of the need to do it at least once a year and to make it safe for them. In this sense, there are many organizations that have quick tests and knowledge in this regard that can be very helpful.

        Diagnosis and subsequent moments

        The timing of communicating the diagnosis is one of the most difficult, and it can be of great importance to have counseling and referral services in the departments that are responsible for performing the test. Notification of this fact is a blow and can cause severe shock to the patient, reactions can range from a panic attack to no immediate reaction.

        The most important thing right now is to offer emotional support, While providing information about what the infection means and means, teaching prevention and self-management measures and motivating the subject to adhere to treatment.

        In addition, another factor of great difficulty for the diagnosed person arises when communicate the fact to their environment and possible sexual partners that he had recently. In fact, many subjects hide their status and lock themselves away without seeking help or emotional support. It is not uncommon for there to be adaptive syndromes, acute stress disorder, or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

        As with other serious chronic illnesses, the subject is likely to experience a duel, with an initial period of denial, anger, negotiation, resignation and de facto acceptance. In some cases, these people may have thoughts of suicide and even actual suicide attempts, so psychological and environmental support becomes essential. It can be very useful participation and assistance in support groups, problem-solving training and various psychological and relaxation techniques.

        Living with HIV: psychological effects

        HIV infection is a chronic problem that is currently untreated and is a major health problem around the world. Fortunately, despite the lack of caution, advances in medicine and antiretroviral therapy have meant that, in cases where the disease is treated, it has gone from death within a few years to the ability to control itself and become a disease. chronic disease.

        However, its detection is a blow to those who suffer and the existence of a large number of changes in the lives of patients, who in addition to the disease itself often undergo different disorders like depression, panic attacks and anxiety due to the knowledge of suffering from this condition.

        Somatic symptoms are also likely to occur due to anxiety, which people may come to associate with their condition. It’s not uncommon for them to be distracted, irritable, or feel guilty about being infected. Self-esteem can drop dramatically, and it is not uncommon for anhedonia, emptiness, and fear to manifest.

        On the social level, it is not uncommon for the subject to tend to reproach and isolate, Both because of their emotional state and the fear of infecting others. Likewise, HIV is a stigma that can lead other people to avoid contact with the subject or to consider that they will be rejected by their environment, with serious social and professional prejudices.

        At the sexual and emotional level, there is also generally a significant inhibition, even when one has a stable partner who knows the seropositivity of the subject because protective mechanisms are used. All this reinforces the presence of affective disordersThis in turn is harmful as stress lowers the performance of the immune system.

        It should also be borne in mind that continued treatment is essential and for life, although it may cause side effects. In addition to the subject itself, he should also prepare for the environment and offer advice and guidance.


          The aspects mentioned above refer to different problems that people who are diagnosed with HIV may have when diagnosed due to knowledge of their own illness, especially in the early stages. But being diagnosed with this disease does not imply living an unhappy life. Today’s HIV-positive person can lead normal, long and full lives.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Avelar, VY; Cornejo, IB and Torres, JD (2011). Psychological effects on people of both sexes aged 20 to 50 years diagnosed with HIV between January 2006 and June 2010 belonging to the Salvadoran Foundation for the fight against AIDS “María Lorena” (CONTRASIDA) of the municipality of San Salvador . University of El Salvador. Faculty of Sciences and Humanities. Department of Psychology.
          • Prieto, F .; Casaña, S .; Ibarguchi, L. and Pérez, S. (2007) Psychological effects of people affected by HIV-AIDS: lines of action. Positive support association.

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