How to deal with HIV infections correctly

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How do people react to a friend's HIV infection?

Even today, around 2,700 people in Germany contract AIDS every year. A total of around 73,000 people in Germany currently suffer from the immune deficiency disease and around 500 people die each year from the consequences of their illness. In order to point out the risks of HIV infection, to inform about the consequences, treatment approaches and the best possible treatment of those affected, UNAIDS (the United Nations AIDS Program) has been organizing World AIDS Day annually on December 1st since 1988.

This year's World AIDS Day is themed "Live together positively - but surely!", Which focuses not only on the positive way that AIDS patients deal with their illness, but also on the appropriate reaction of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family should. First and foremost, AIDS is a major blow to those affected, but the personal environment of those affected also often has difficulties in finding appropriate ways to deal with those infected with HIV. For this reason, the experts at this year's World AIDS Day provide detailed information on how family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues should best react to AIDS.

What is the correct response to HIV infection? On the occasion of today's World AIDS Day, Heike Gronski from Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe in Berlin informed how the best possible reaction of the environment to a friend's AIDS disease should be. Above all, "it is crucial to talk about it directly," emphasized Gronski. Heike Gronski explained that it was difficult enough for those affected to reveal themselves with their illness, so the environment should not be closed when opening up. Although the disease is often a shock for friends and colleagues, they should keep the affected person as open as possible. According to the expert of Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, the environment of AIDS patients should ideally give them the feeling that HIV infection is not a change in their personal relationship. Gronski described sentences such as: "We remain friends."; or "Of course you can continue to work here."

Addressing fears and fears in conversation with AIDS patients According to Heike Gronski, the correct way to deal with AIDS patients generally depends on the relationship with the sick, whereby the joyful treatment of relatives and with their life partner focuses on emotional processing of the new life situation should. In the work environment, on the other hand, the effects on performance, the risk of infection and a discreet handling of the disease, for example, are of increased interest. In any case, family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues should not shy away from open discussions with those affected. The courage of AIDS patients to reveal themselves with their illness is to be appreciated by the initiates accordingly, because this step is easy for the fewest infected. When talking to those infected with HIV, the initiates should not shy away from difficult questions and address their own fears and fears, said the expert from the German AIDS Service. Questions like: "What does that mean for our dealings with each other?"; "Is there a risk of infection?" Or "Are you often sick now?" Are allowed and can help to reduce unreasonable fears, Gronski continues. According to the expert, it is helpful if HIV positives and negatives get information about possible questions before the interview.

Communication about HIV infection only with the consent of those affected. The initiates should also discuss with those affected how to deal with information about AIDS in the future. According to Heike Gronski, the main question here is whether the infected prefer to keep their illness secret or whether they can be discussed with others, “and if so, with whom?” Is the information about a friend's AIDS disease derived? from third parties, it is best to ask directly whether this communication of the disease is okay for the person concerned. Because "everyone has the right to have their medical history not spread in public if they don't want to," says the expert from Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. This also applies to families, friends and acquaintances, but especially in the workplace, the right to information should only be held by those affected and the initiates should not discuss the HIV infection of their colleague without the consent of the sick. However, an open discussion in a larger group may also be helpful if the rumor of an employee's HIV infection is already circulating, Heike Gronski explained. If such rumors circulate "it may even make sense to address the infection in a larger group, for example at a team meeting", in order to give those infected the chance to speak publicly about their illness themselves, the expert from the German AIDS Aid continues. However, such a conversation should only be considered after consultation with those affected. If HIV-infected people refuse such open communication of their illness, their colleagues should also respect this. (fp)

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Image: Gerd Altmann,

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