People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and psycho-social support
Psycho-social support should not end on orphans and vulnerable children. People living with HIV/AIDS need support so that they can effectively deal with their emotional and psychological problems. They need the society to look after them and such a community should be ready to play this significant and central role.
The material support that many NGO’s give to these people need to be complimented with social support since these people are emotionally vulnerable and distressed. The following are forms of psycho-social support that can be useful to people living with HIV/AIDS:
(a) Support groups
Society should play a leading role in helping people with HIV form support groups.
“These groups are a powerful force for the rights of people with HIV, challenging discrimination, advocating for access and seeking legal protection of human rights.” (Jackson H.2002: 223).
People living with HIV and AIDS can become influential policy makers or peer educators on issues surrounding HIV/AIDs. Groups accords these people with an opportunity to debate issues that concerns them and their status as they are shaped by a common cause. Support groups offer them a form of identification free from stigma and fear. It is in these support groups that ethical and human rights issues relating to HIV/AIDS are raised. These support groups should go deep down in breaking stigma and discrimination.
“Within an open HIV support group, people know they can talk about their infection, share experiences and ideas, and help each other when different members become sick” (Jackson 2002:228).
(b) Involving People Living With HIV/AIDS in decision-making, managerial and leadership positions.
There is a need for society to involve people living with HIV/AIDS in decision-making. They need to feel that they are an important component of the community. Secondly, they should also feel and realize that society does not prejudice or undermine their capabilities. In workplaces, there is a need to involve them in managerial and leadership role. This is the only way such people can regain their self–esteem.
(c) Hospice care and community care – “A continuum of care and support”
“Home and community care offer the only feasible option for the majority of patients at most stages of their disease, not just the dying” (Jackson 2002:232).
As the epidemic expands, the medical personnel can no longer cope leaving patients to be discharged and later die at their homes. Hospice care seeks to take a holistic approach in addressing the social, spiritual, economic or psychological needs of a patient. In Hospice care, the continuum of care and support includes voluntary counselling, testing, social and legal support of theses patients.
Valuable opportunities for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention are also given to these patients in their homes or communities. Hospice care is not only provided to HIV/AIDS patients. It can also be given to those with a terminal illness like cancer. Home and community care can effectively help people open up about HIV/AIDS.
“The value of self help lies partly in direct health benefits and partly in psychological benefits. Being passive and dependent and feeling helpless reduce self–esteem and easily lead to depression”. (Jackson H: 2002: 213)
Self help generally involves the idea that one should be responsible for his or her own health. Also, it is the duty of the particular individual to seek emotional support and care from others. Idea sharing is also a useful or central objective of self-help. People living with HIV need to talk to others to gain the much needed support and morale sustenance.
Avoidant responses are a combination of all actions, activities, gestures or responses that can emotionally inhibit or incapacitate the emotional growth of anyone in a psycho-social crisis or distress. Such a response can either isolate or ostracize the person –in –situation, in this case orphans, vulnerable children and people living with HIV/Aids. These responses are,
(a) Stigma and discrimination
Society needs to shun stigma and discrimination as this result in children or HIV patients having psychosocial distress. Society often discriminates against the orphaned, vulnerable or the sick. We need to change our attitudes and become more helpful to these people. Stigma and discrimination means loss of dignity and self –esteem on the part of the sick. The duty of the community is to make sure those issues or cases of stigma and discrimination are dealt with. Secondly, investment in anti-stigma campaigns and messages is worthwhile.
Society should avoid discrimination because it inhibits the growth of anyone in a psycho-social crisis.
(b) The subjection of orphans, vulnerable children and AIDS patients to exploitative circumstances
Orphans and vulnerable children are often exploited by the society. Many people emotionally and physically abuse them. Some are sexually exploited because they do not have the voice. Their situation makes them more vulnerable. Cases of child sexual abuse, child labour and sodomy are well documented. Patients can also fall prey to these exploitative circumstances. HIV/AIDs patients have seen their rights being ignored or violated completely. This is a typical emotional exploitation. Society needs to respect such people and accord them the much-needed social support. Exploitation in all its forms needs to be avoided and discouraged. There is need for the community to build the capacity of these people so that they can support themselves.
(c) Ostracism and isolation
AIDS orphans and patients often experience severe incidents of ostracism and isolation. They are neglected and isolated because they are either orphans or vulnerable children. Any society or community that promotes tendencies of ostracism and isolation needs to seriously consider the ghastly impacts they cause to orphans and HIV positive children.
Neglect can be merely defined as the absence of due care. In this context, orphans, vulnerable children and AIDS patients can be the victims of neglect. People usually neglect such people because they associate their plight or condition with immoral tendencies which they do not approve. Children and AIDS patients need to be looked after with due care. However, it is disgusting to note that society often neglects these people who are in need. Neglect is incapacitating and should be avoided at all cost.
(e) Exclusion of orphans, vulnerable children and AIDS patients in social, traditional or spiritual rituals or functions
Orphans, vulnerable children and AIDS patients are part of the community. They need to be involved in all social, traditional or spiritual rituals or functions. The community should guarantee their affiliation needs. They should be part of every function that they so wish to attend. Excluding them from such activities will lower their degree of self-esteem and might even render them incapable or socially unworthy. These people need to take part in all social activities that they themselves would want to be part and parcel of it.
It is imperative to note that psycho-social support can either inhibit or promote the social or emotional growth of any person in a psycho-social crisis. The role of the community is also crucial in resolving the psychological or emotional state of orphans, vulnerable children and HIV/AIDS patients.
Nevertheless, it is the same community that can simultaneously offer helpful as well as unhelpful responses. Stigma and discrimination are the most evident responses that orphans, vulnerable children and AIDS patients usually receive from the community. Such responses need to be avoided at all cost.
However, there are several forms of social support that might be ideal to orphans and vulnerable children only. Peer education, adventure learning and children’s involvement in solutions are among the helpful responses that these children need.
Support groups, hospice/community care, self–help projects and involvement of HIV/AIDS patients in decision making and leadership roles can also be ideal for people living with HIV/AIDS. There are several ways in which society can assist or help such people who are often distressed and emotionally disempowered.
It is the community that has to play a meaningful and central role in making sure that psychosocial support is effectively helpful. The community need to offer helpful responses as they are not only therapeutic but also foster adjustment and growth.
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