â€œI know how you feelâ€¦â€â€” â€œNo you donâ€™t!â€, you canâ€™t honestly empathise â€¦unless you have had the same experience.
People recently diagnosed with HIV experience a variety of emotions from rejection, fear, denial, anger, sadness. They may become frightened, depressed, angry, worried and/or isolated. Their partners, loved ones and caregivers can also be confronted with a kaleidoscope of emotions from despair, helplessness, grief and sorrow.
Support groups can benefit people living with HIV and Aids (PLWHA) by providing spiritual and emotional support. They offer a safe, informal and relaxed environment to share experiences and build new friendships. They give caregivers and PLWHA renewed faith and confidence in the face of devastating losses.
There also additional information benefits about treatment, coping skills, womenâ€™s health issues, safe sex, sleeping and relaxation, hygiene, communication skills, nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, living positively day to day and legal issues.Â Some support groups can also offer home-based care and access to nutritional supplements as well as income generating skills.
People, who participate in support groups, have less depression, improved coping skills, a happier emotional well-being, a better quality of life, enhanced emotion-regulation strategies, improved adherenceÂ to medication and ARVs and hope! And there is moreâ€¦.participants choose healthier lifestyles which include abstinence from drugs, alcohol, and risky behaviours such as unprotected sex.
Undoubtedly, there are many positives to support groups. However, there are also some drawbacks or concerns such as confidentiality, worsening depression when the group discusses illness, witnessing the decline of fellow members or members leaving, bad group dynamics and disruptive members!
It is not only people with HIV that can be assisted by support groups. People who are HIV negative also need support. Survivor syndrome affects people who have lost family and friends to Aids. They can experience guilt and depression which can lead to self-destructive behaviours such as suicide attempts and unsafe sex. Support groups can assist survivors by helping them stay negative and provide comfort during loss.
â€œI donâ€™t need a support groupâ€ famous words for people newly diagnosed with HIV. There are many reasons why this might be the caseâ€”previous bad experience with other support groups or attending a meeting might bring home the reality of the diagnosis or sometimes meeting new people, change, can be scary. But if you do take the bold and wise step of joining a group, find a group that suits you, donâ€™t make your mind up at the first meetingâ€¦developing relationships with members takes time just the same way processing living with HIV also takes time. A group does not have to be formal; it could be as simple as employees at work meeting during a Friday lunchtime or a church prayer group or a social sports team.
I am super keen to hear from any support groups out there. Please send me information on the name of your group, where you are based, and a quote about what you think the benefits of joining a support group are.