Impact of HIV/AIDS Disability





Sociological and Psychological Impact of HIV/AIDS Disability

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According to Wendy Taormina, people with disabilities need sociological and psychological intervention to help them progress through their different stages well (Psychological and Social Aspects of Disability, 2016). Individuals experiencing any form of disability for the first time undergo a stress phase of how to go on with life, the value of life changes and they start feeling different from the rest. Sociologically, people that experience disability for the first time deal with the responsibility of family, cultural beliefs issues and adjusting their regular duties. The various stages which people with disabilities undergo include shock, denial, anger or depression and adjustment or acceptance. People go through these stages at different paces, but when an individual becomes stuck in a certain stage, it becomes a problem.

Persons with HIV/AIDS are also at a risk of facing psychological and sociological problems in one way or another. First of all, people go through an emotional change when they realize they have HIV/AIDS. These emotions may include shock, disbelief, panic, fear, guilt, anger, hopelessness and numbness. The person should get counseling to help him or her deal with the emotion. The impact of the psychological change is worsened by the rapid changes in its treatment and the developmental outlook. Additionally, the stigma associated with HIV may make the individual’s conditions deteriorate. Sociologically, when the family and the community around the person do not accept his/her status, the individual will feel segregated which worsens the condition (Psychological and Social Aspects of Disability. 2016). This paper discusses the psychological and sociological impacts of a person leaving with HIV/AIDS.


HIV Disability

HIV does discriminate. Anybody is at risk of contracting the virus. However, research has indicated that people at the ages from 13 to 29 are at a higher risk of getting infected than any other person. Moreover, women are a double risk of contracting HIV virus through vaginal sex than men. Some of the symptoms of HIV are fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, mouth ulcers, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms may last between a few days to several weeks after infection ( 2016).

The HIV is a viral disease. There are two types of HIV that are known: HIV 1 and HIV 2. The two viruses are different with HIV 1 being the most predominant. The centers for Disease Control and prevention indicate that surveillance is going on to collect data regarding HIV. In 1980s the time taken by HIV to progress to AIDS was predicted however the prediction diminished in 1996. In April 2008 CDCs started tracking the data although it is becoming difficult due to varying factors. CDS have therefore proposed methods to mange HIV. Some of the methods include: taking ARVs, attending counseling sessions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle ( 2016).

Description of the Person

Julie, a 30-years old primary school teacher in Philadelphia, tested positive for HIV/AIDS when she was in college. She was infected when she was 20 years old. Julie was in a relationship with one boyfriend in high school and had sex regularly. Every time she tested for HIV when in college and campus, it was always negative. One day she visited the hospital because she was feeling a bit weak and she was vomiting. The doctor advised her to have an HIV test, she agreed. What shocked her is that she tested positive for the first time and to make matters worse, she was pregnant. Luckily, she was able to convince her boyfriend to undergo the same test. Her boyfriend also tested positive. When she got her child, the child tested negative, but she was still positive when the test was done after giving birth. She realized that her boyfriend was in a relationship with another girl. He then infected Julie with the virus.

Psychological Implication

Just like any other disability that appears for the first time, Julie was shocked to realize that she was infected. She was shocked because she had taken precautions her entire life by having one sexual partner. She wondered how she was infected yet the several times she was tested the test results were negative. She was also shocked and worried what she could tell her “harsh” parents. It was like adding salt to the injury when the doctor told her that she was pregnant. She realized that she was to deal with more than one problem; confront her boyfriend, breaking the news to her parents and dealing with her HIV status and her child in the womb. Effective psychological interventions can help to ensure recovery of the individual. The doctor advised her that she should call her boyfriend and ask him to be tested. Secondly, she was asked to go home with a close friend who would help her pass the news to her parents. And lastly, she was told that the child would be safe if she takes precautions. Julie says that her doctor helped her to deal with the shock partially but was still worried about what her parents would do.

Denial is a common stage for individuals with a disability. It is common for any person to deny that her status is positive when they are tested for HIV. Doctors say that it is healthy for individuals to undergo denial stage for three weeks to four months. This helps individuals to accept gradually the disability that has come into her life ( 2016). Julie says that she went through this stage for seven months. She could not accept her status. She went for another test after three months for confirmation. Still, she tested positive. She thought that it was the child who tested positive and not her and therefore decided to undergo another test after giving birth. Again, she tested positive. This was when reality downed on her that she was positive indeed. Julie got help from her doctor who talked to her and encouraged her that she can still leave a positive life with proper medication and healthy living. After her child she tested positive and started coping with the situation and living positively.

Anger and depression occur when an individual starts thinking of what life would be with the new disability in his/her life. The person grieves about the changes that happen in his/her body, loss of what he/she had expected in future and loss of some of her basic functions. Julie was angry with herself and her boyfriend. She was angry that her boyfriend cheated on her. She was angry that she could drop out of college to take care of her child. She was angry that she could not get a man to marry her because of her status. Julie became depressed because of these situations. Also, she was depressed that her parents were disappointed with her. There are various ways of dealing with anger that include talking about the feeling with other people, taking exercises such as dancing that help relieve tension and avoiding situations that would make one feel angry ( 2016). For Julie, she decided to talk about her situation with her close friend Mercy and her doctor. She says that helped her to relieve the anger and depression.

Adjustment and acceptance of one’s disability is a milestone of treating or coping with the disability. It does not mean that at this stage the person is happy with the disability, but acceptance helps her find alternatives and ways to go on with her daily life ( 2016). Julie accepted her status after the birth of her beautiful baby, Joy. The baby had brought joy in her and turned life around. She says that talking and discussing the matter with her self-help group helped in coping with the situation. As most doctors would recommend, talking about the disability, Julie got a lot of help from her friend Mercy. Julie says that she now lives positively, is dating another man who is positive, she has started a workshop to help teenagers deal with HIV, and she is planning to go back to college to take counseling courses to help her start a counseling center.

Sociological Impacts

Family and friends’ support for people with HIV reduces the burden of stigma. A study was conducted in South Africa to find the effect of family support or lack of family support. The study involved a group of 27 individuals who were HIV positive. From the interviews and questionnaires, the study found out that family support helps in reducing the burden of the effect of HIV and improving the care of the disabled persons (Iwelunmor, J., Airhihenbuwa, C., Okoror, T., Brown, D., &BeLue, R. 2006). Julie says that her parents were “harsh” on her in the initial stages. However, they later came to support her and after giving birth, they assisted her in raising the kid. The parents are now willing to take her back to college and helped to start her workshop. Her friend Mercy has been her pillar every day of her life. She says that that this has made her life smooth.

Her boyfriend left her when he realized that she was pregnant. It was hard to cope with the situation, but she says that she has moved on and is now dating another man. She says that she has found love again. Another study conducted in America with 40 HIV-infected mothers indicted that social support and family functions combined with medication help to bring up the child healthy and the mother happy (Mellins, C. 2000). Julie says that if it were not for her friend Mercy, she could not have taken the medication while pregnant and her child would have been born positive. She is happy for her child, and she is leaving healthy.


Disability can be physical, emotional, mental, sensory, developmental or cognitive impairment. It can occur any time of life and can affect anybody. When the disability occurs for the first time, individuals undergo psychological stages. These stages include; shock, denial, anger or depression and adjustment or acceptance. These stages are common, but the problem arises if an individual is stuck in any stage for long. People with disability need sociological and psychological intervention to help them progress through their different stages well. HIV is one form of invalidity that requires psychological and sociological support so that the individual can adjust or cope with the situation. Most health practitioners advocate for a person with HIV to find support from their doctors, friends and family. Julie, who was infected with HIV at her 20’s, was able to adjust to her situation with the help of her doctor, parents, and her friend. Although she went through denial, anger and depression, she finally accepted her status and she is now living a positive life.






amfAR :: Basic Facts About HIV :: The Foundation for AIDS Research :: HIV / AIDS Research. (2016). Retrieved 12 April 2016, from

Coping with HIV/AIDS: Mental Health. (2016). Retrieved 12 April 2016, from

Getting Past HIV Denial. (2016). Retrieved 12 April 2016, from

Iwelunmor, J., Airhihenbuwa, C., Okoror, T., Brown, D., & BeLue, R. (2006). Family Systems and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. International Quarterly Of Community Health Education, 27(4), 321-335.

Mellins, C. (2000). AIDS And Behavior, 4(4), 317-328.

Psychological and Social Aspects of Disability. (2016). Disabled World. Retrieved 12 April 2016, from

Surveillance Overview | Statistics Center | HIV/AIDS | CDC. (2016). Retrieved 12 April 2016, from


Impact of HIV/AIDS Disability
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Mount Vernon, New York | 2017-11-12
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Research paper, Psychology, Graduate

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