NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth Swachh India NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth Swachh India
  • Home/
  • News/
  • Opinion: Mental Health Challenges Experienced By People Living With HIV


Opinion: Mental Health Challenges Experienced By People Living With HIV

Stress faced by people with HIV can cause psychological problems, writes mental health expert Richa Vashista

हिन्दी में पढ़े
Mental Health Challenges Experienced By People Living With HIV
Mental health issues tend to be higher among people living with HIV writes mental health expert Richa Vashista

After more than three decades since the first known case of HIV in India, revolutionary medical advances have converted the once life-threatening terminal illness into a manageable chronic disease. To date, living with HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) infection can be stressful. People living with HIV need to navigate an array of medical services, while dealing with social stigma. Along with experiencing recurrent stressors including physical pain and side effects of medication, they also tend to experience shame, guilt and self-blame.

Also Read: Experts Debunk Some Of The Common Myths About HIV And AIDS

Individuals, particularly women and those who identify as LGBTQIA+ living with HIV face harassment and discrimination, most times by their family members. There have been instances where people are asked to live separately and use separate clothes and utensils, treating them as untouchables. This discrimination is attributed to the myths and misconceptions that queer individuals spread HIV. In fact, women and queer individuals also experience bias in health care settings which makes health care inaccessible to people living with HIV. Additionally, HIV treatment can lead to body changes, which can lead to body-image issues.

The emotional and mental stress experienced by people living with HIV can cause different types of psychological problems. They often experience symptoms of depression or anxiety as they adjust with the implications of an HIV diagnosis and cope with the difficulties of living with a chronic illness. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, social status, or age can add to the individual’s burden, which can be a traumatic experience for them.

Trauma here refers to a deeply disturbing or distressing experience that involves emotional wounding. It can affect an individual’s ability to function, and their social and emotional wellbeing for a long time. It is caused by various mental stressors as discussed below:

Mental stressors experienced by people living with HIV:

Mental health issues tend to be higher among people living with HIV compared to people who do not live with HIV. Many go through various emotions such as grief, anger, fear and sadness when they receive an HIV positive result. Receiving an HIV positive result can be daunting, even though new age medicine can support people live healthy, long and productive lives.

Individuals who have tested positive for HIV are known to have a higher chance of developing anxiety, mood and cognitive disorders. They are also known to experience anxiety about what if their HIV positive status is revealed to someone else without their consent. There are anxieties related to changing relationship dynamics after testing positive. People also experience reduced social support and increased isolation, which can cause depression. They tend to feel helpless and hopeless and in some cases, there is a risk of self-harm and suicide.

The cumulative negative effect of trauma in people with HIV, increased physical and psychological vulnerability can be severe. Hence, there is a need for a better understanding of the mental and emotional effects of being diagnosed with HIV and offering the necessary assistance and support.

Also Read: Expert Blog: HIV Prevention- Ending The HIV Epidemic Together

How mental health support can help people living with HIV

Since the early years of the HIV epidemic, stigma has been a major barrier to successful HIV prevention, care and treatment. To ensure better treatment and care for people living with HIV, it is important for all stakeholders to work towards eliminating the stigma, discrimination and harassment.

The next step is to integrate mental health support systems into the healthcare infrastructure for HIV. This will not only help existing patients, but also strengthen HIV prevention and care outcomes. Doctors and general practitioners should be trained to recognise mental health concerns along people living with HIV. They can offer counselling to them, guide them about the resources available and how they can access them.

People living with HIV need extra care and support while coming to terms with their status. Mental health support can assist individuals and their families in coping better and realising that they can still live a fulfilling life.
In the long run, these steps will improve global access to mental healthcare and improve quality of lives.

Also Read: World AIDS Day: A Day Of Solidarity To Prevent HIV And Support People Living With It

(Written by Richa Vashista, Chief Mental Health Expert, AtEase, a mental health platform for women and non-binary individuals)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.


This website follows the DNPA Code of Ethics

© Copyright NDTV Convergence Limited 2024. All rights reserved.