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Are some people addicted to their HIV status? Over the past six years I have met hundreds of positive people from many countries, ethnicities, walks of life, gender and age. Many are accepting of their HIV status and many not. However, I have also seen the extremes that a HIV diagnosis can bring. Those that concern me are the ones I feel have an addiction to their status. Let me clarify what I mean by addiction. A behavioural addiction is defined as a compulsion to repeatedly engage in an action until it causes negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.

As we all know, the diagnosis of HIV comes with life changes. However, I have constantly come into contact with those that become obsessive, self-destructive and introverted. In terms of the definition of the behavioural addiction I feel that there is a cohort of the HIV community that seek to destroy their lives as a result of their diagnosis. They become dependent on their own negative feelings, leading to an addiction. In my eyes their behaviour warrants psychological interventions with cognitive behavioural therapy, a Level 4 therapy of the Shared Care programme offered to cancer patients.

I also believe that there are some services and professionals out there that are moulding these negative and destructive behaviours whilst hiding behind the barriers of ‘confidentiality’. Most psychological intervention for HIV positive patients is around disclosure. However, as far back as 1998 it was suggested that cognitive behavioural therapy could be used to aid HIV positive patients in dealing with diagnosis and disclosure. I have searched journals from 2000-present time and found no research that has taken this concept forward. Meanwhile, we have thousands of people in the UK that may have taken undesirable life paths that could have been prevented.

I am not talking of the odd counselling session provided, ad-hoc, through HIV charities, I am suggesting that clinical psychologists are made available at every HIV clinic in the country, in-line with the NAT (2010) report on psychological support for people with HIV.  Once a HIV positive patient has been in this state of addiction for many years then the cost of treating that patient, presuming they want to accept the treatment, would be ten-fold the early intervention financial cost, let alone the damage to that person’s life, their family and friends, and the public perception of the HIV community as a whole.

If you feel that you need support please speak to someone. If you feel you are unable to speak to your GP or Consultant please get in touch with THT Direct on  0808 802 1221.

Julie

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I think you’ll find that the behavioural issues have little to do with their HIV status though perhaps they’re exacerbated by them. What I find appalling is that actually it is not until one gets a diagnose that one has easier access to health care including mental health care. I have many stories of people I know (possibly myself included) who if they had had proper support prior to diagnose they perhaps they would not be in the position they are in.

  2. I agree that psychological help is needed by the majority rather than the minority and I also believe that there needs to be more funding for the effects of people living with HIV and self-management programmes. However, as usual the NHS will only fund reactively and not preventably. Maybe the BHIVA Standards 2013 may force the service providers to look differently at what they offer and it’s relevance to HIV status.

  3. I agree with both sentiments. The countries support for Mental Health is appalling.
    Long story short, my depression led me down a dark path that led to my diagnosis. I did not seek out HIV but i was in a place mentally where I did not care.

    My diagnosis was the only point where I managed to get some form of support with my depression. I still struggle now. But had I have had an earlier intervention with my depression it is highly possible that my once 100% safe sex routine would of carried on.

    Sometimes I think that we as a community and beyond spend too little time investigating what leads a person to become so reckless. 40% of the LGBT community suffer with mental health issues, 75% for us. I do wonder how a greater service provision accessible to the wider population would impact on HIV+ transition rates.

  4. What a great online service you are providing to the world of HIV! I am a US citizen, and I’ve had a legal issue with the state of Florida for almost 10 years now. Seems here in the US, when AIDS came to be, volunteers had to create a network of healthcare centers (see the history of Broadway Cares, for example.) Nowadays, this system has been taken over by the government (thanks only to Bill Clinton) that meets some of our basic health needs. But, like Andrew Cook says about the UK Dental care and the ordeal he went through, our dental care here is atrocious! I found out a few years ago that if you are an alcoholic or a drug addict, crowns and root canals are paid by the state. But if you are HIV Pos, they just pull your teeth. If you’re lucky enough to have good insurance, which can cost as much as $350 a month (US,) then you’re covered for RC’s and crowns. But if you are on Medicare (the closest thing we have to socialized medicine) you’re on your own! Most younger guys back in the 90’s who didn’t have insurance through employers were given no choice but to take Medicare. Sometimes there are good doctors. Other times, not so much.

    As for prejudice against those of us with HIV, I’ll tell you my tale: I went to see a doctor about surgery for a cyst a few months ago, and as we talked, I mentioned I was Poz, and he looked at me and asked me if I was a “homosexual”, sneering in that hateful way old right wingers do when they want to try to embarrass you or humiliate you. I said “Yes, is that an issue?” He looked at me with a smirk and said “No, it won’t be a problem. Besides, there’ll be other people in the room as witnesses.” As though, if he were to “do something untoward with my body while I am under anesthesia”, he would be restricted to only do things that others couldn’t see him doing, as though he wouldn’t be ‘legally’ responsible.

    I’ve had many bad experiences here over the past 20 years, but I’ve managed to stay alive this long. It’s going to take a lot more than a virus to kill me! Even though I’ve now lost most if my teeth, and can only eat soft food, soon I will have them all pulled and get shiny bright white new dentures! Oh, joy!!!

    All kidding aside, I am excited about your new website. I will be checking in on this website periodically to read more about developments in the UK, and maybe we can start a sort of partnership to conquer ignorance and prejudice throughout the world. Thanks! And keep up the great work!

  5. In what ways are people becoming addicted to their status? Is this because they are seeking help and regularly partaking in communication/activity within the HIV community and withdrawing from society in general?

    Personally, I feel that if that is the way you are made with a self destructive personality or suffer with mental health issues, then it doesn’t matter if it is HIV or any other reason.

    I know many, many people who don’t know how to help themselves, wallow, self destruct and some are only happy when there is a drama in their lives, and these people are not HIV positive.

    I don’t feel that this is a HIV issue, more a society issue, and feel that the HIV positive community has enough stigma attached to it without any more being added.

    There most definitely should be more support, advice, help, education made available on diagnosis and those people should be nurtured, but to be honest, if the person who informed me I was positive then suggested I see a psychologist, that to me would have been a double wammy, hitting me when I am down.

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