HIV/AIDS affected families: A challenge to health care professionals

Sharon Aimee Hollander, Pace University


As the AIDS epidemic unfolds, the proportion of cases involving women, children, and families has increased dramatically. While AIDS has garnered a significant amount of attention, little consideration has been directed towards this population. Service providers are ill equipped to deal with this second wave of patients. The objective of this study was to respond to this problem and explore how psychologists and other medical and mental health professionals can best meet the needs of HIV/AIDS infected and affected families. Fifty health care professionals treating HIV/AIDS affected families were interviewed. The professionals represented a variety of disciplines including nursing, social work, and program supervision. Issues examined were: the psychological concerns of family members, their expected gains from psychological assistance, the service needs and interests of family members, common difficulties experienced by professionals working with this population, and factors that would be helpful to professionals in meeting the needs of families. A wide range of issues and a variety of opinions were revealed by this study. In terms of mental health assistance, HIV/AIDS affected family members are presenting professionals with problems involving the health of the HIV infected adult in the family, concerns about death and dying, and need for advocacy for services. Issues less widespread and more specific to this population include worries over the child(ren)'s health, child rearing concerns, and questions about disclosure, particularly to children. In seeking assistance, professionals felt family members most wanted emotional support and building of their self-esteem. Information and referrals was seen as the second most important type of assistance. Findings were also indicative of dissatisfaction with the nature and extent of services for families. Specific examples include need for more home-based assistance (e.g., homemaker, home care, respite care) and concrete services (e.g., food, transportation, case management) for patients and families. Legal services and educational presentations an issues such as AIDS and parenting were seen as areas of high interest among family members. Patient and family non-compliance, resistance, and denial of HIV diagnosis and administrative issues (e.g., financial, temporal, and logistical problems) were frequently cited as sources of professional frustration. To best serve this population, participants believed they needed more accessible, timely, and flexible services, as well as more or better staff and funding. Implications for the new role of the mental health practitioner working with HIV/AIDS affected families and the need for expanded research and services to help this population are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Hollander, Sharon Aimee, "HIV/AIDS affected families: A challenge to health care professionals" (1995). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9530182.



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