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.