Almost half a century has passed since its first known case, yet some people still have HIV and AIDS prejudices. These judgments are very harmful to you and the community of AIDS patients. Reckless remarks can progress to bullying and discrimination, affecting your self-worth and overall mental health.
Before learning about protecting your mental health while living with AIDS, let’s talk about stigma and discrimination.
HIV Stigma And Discrimination
HIV stigma and discrimination is more than just verbal and physical abuse directed to patients with AIDS. It sometimes even escalates to depriving HIV patients of their government rights, healthcare needs, and employment opportunities.
This stigma is often directed to patients who are sex workers, drug users, or men who have sex with men (MSM).
Studies show how half of HIV patients from 35% of the countries worldwide have experienced discrimination. Because of the stigma and discrimination, some people are afraid of seeking a diagnosis, let alone receive treatment. This stigma thus affects AIDS patients’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
So what can you, a person with HIV, do to protect your mental health?
- Learn About Your Condition
The first step to protecting your mental health is by learning about your conditions. Statistics show there are 8 out of 10 HIV patients who develop an internalized HIV stigma. This thinking leads to a dangerous path, where patients self-isolate and sulk in depressive and anxious thoughts.
Another way to learn more about your condition is by knowing your rights. Learn about the services you can and should receive. If an employer denies you of a job or a doctor refuses you healthcare, bring up your rights.
Remember, your value as a person does not diminish with an HIV diagnosis. You deserve products and services just like everyone else.
Educating yourself will also help you know your worth. Some patients fall into a rabbit hole of depression after diagnosis. Your self-esteem may depreciate, and you may even blame yourself for your sickness. But you should know about the facts to lift your spirits somehow.
- Educate People About Your Condition
Once you know the fast facts of AIDS, you can then educate other people. Often, HIV stigma comes from people who are misinformed about the illness.
Some think they can contract HIV with minimal interaction—like hugging, kissing, or simply being in the same room—with infected people. This belief is entirely wrong.
Since AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, you can only acquire it from sexual intercourse and not simple physical contact. You should also inform people of the other causes of HIV.
You’d be surprised to know how many people don’t know about HIV transmission through needle or blood transfusion. Blood transfusions have a higher risk compared to other factors.
Sometimes, HIV stigma can also arise from preexisting gender discrimination. Try to remind these prejudiced people of the other HIV risks. Same needle use and blood transfusions are even more of a threat than your sexuality.
Besides, there should be no issue at all with gender and sexual orientation. In this political climate, there’s no space left for discrimination and gender inequalities.
- Surround Yourself With A Loving Community
However, not everyone is born into an accepting and open-minded family. And sometimes, no matter how much you try to educate the people you love, they still won’t accept you fully. It is a sad reality, but it is also a situation we must recognize.
If ever this happens, you would be better off with a loving community. Ask your doctor if they know about any support groups for AIDS patients. They will be able to offer you the support you need as you undergo treatment.
These support groups can also give you tips on living a good life even with AIDS.
Some people may feel shy at first and will instead join online forums anonymously. You can also do this. You control your time, and only you can determine when you’ll be ready to share with people about your condition.
- Build Good Mental Health Habits
However, it is best to regulate your dependence on other people since it may also be detrimental if in excess. If you haven’t had the resources to build healthy habits before, now would be a perfect time.
Start being more mindful of your actions, thoughts, and emotions. You can start a journal to monitor your feelings as well as your symptoms and progress.
Once you become more aware of yourself and how your brain processes events, you can take better control of everything else. You can improve your mood and enhance your overall cognitive abilities.
What’s important is you continue building yourself up. Learn new things about yourself or your condition every day. You can take small steps, and it would still be fine. The important thing is, you are progressing to become a better you despite living with an illness.
If you have trouble trying to be mentally healthy, seek the help of professionals. Psychologists and doctors may help you with behavioral therapies. Life coaches, therapists, and counselors can also provide you with proper strategies to improve your general quality of life.
AIDS is just another treatable disease but only made worse by discrimination and negative stigma. So before the negativity reaches your mental health, take the necessary steps to protect it.
Educate yourself and the people close to you with HIV and AIDS facts. You should also have a healthy balance between community-dependence and self-reliance. And if you need professional help, don’t be scared to seek psychologists or therapists.