How to Approach Someone who Has AIDS

By Maria Victoria Malela. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Approach Someone who Has AIDS

Out of the sexually transmittable diseases (STD) that we know to this day, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome known as AIDS is probably the one that carries more stigma - a stigma that traces back to the eighties and is often associated with abandonment and isolation.

People who are HIV positive and who develop AIDS tend to be avoided or voluntarily cut themselves off their entourage. It is therefore important to break the secrecy that surrounds this condition and develop healthy and effective communication.

Though the barrier had already been repetitively broken in the past through visually powerful campaigns by prominent public figures, including Princess Diana, the stigma associated with people who have AIDS is still very much present in today's society.

Both HIV positive people and people who are suffering from AIDS undeniably need a solid support system. It is also by modifying our approach to people who have AIDS, that we will likewise be able to reduce HIV infections by encouraging an open dialogue on the topic. So, how to approach someone who has aids? OneHowTo offers their advice.

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Break the physical barrier

Research shows that physical contact has many health benefits. Physical touch initiates trust, it creates bonds and greatly contributes to emotional balance. Initiating physical touch with a person who suffers from AIDS sends an even stronger message of acceptance and approval. In 1987, Princess Diana was photographed shaking hands with an HIV-positive man, in times when the stigma surrounding this condition was the strongest. Since then, many HIV activists have gone to great lengths in order to demonstrate how important it is for us to be present for HIV-positive people and those who suffer from AIDS. A simple handshake or a warm hug can go a long way and can be done at any scale.

How to Approach Someone who Has AIDS - Break the physical barrier

Empathy and compassion

We don't need to be psychologists in order to understand that an HIV-positive person needs moral support and gentle compassion. One of the main reasons for depression that follows the HIV positive diagnostic is an overall feeling of guilt and shame. Providing nonjudgmental interactions in our approach is a great first step towards helping a person who has aids. Conversation topics might include a positive perspective on the future, invitations to take part in various social events/activities, spiritual support, such as prayer, if requested.

Talk about AIDS

A silenced issue always seems bigger than when spoken out loud. Of course the point is not to minimize the condition of the person who has AIDS, but by simply talking about what life with AIDS might look like, the disease lessens its grip of fear. A tactful approach is naturally required. Talk about the changes that this condition implies, without magnifying them. Take a look at the symptoms of AIDS to learn more about this disease if needed. Assess the situation calmly and clearly define what living with AIDS is, and what it is not. Use positive affirmations, for example, living with AIDS is not a death sentence.

Encourage them to be proactive

If the HIV positive person is not receiving medical assistance, urge them to do so. The current treatments are becoming more and more effective. The immune system can be strengthened through a healthy lifestyle, thus a positive diagnostic does no longer have to equate with death sentence and urge them to join a support group where they can meet people who are living with HIV who beat the stigmas. As a friend you can contribute to make them have a healthier lifestyle and support them, encourage them to take on activities that make them feel productive.

How to Approach Someone who Has AIDS - Encourage them to be proactive

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