Lack of a support system for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in the workplace : can emotional and psychosocial support assist them to cope better with their problems?
Twalo, Lindelwa Princess
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This research paper investigates the need for emotional and psychosocial support for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in the workplace. Most employees infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as their families, often need assistance to cope with stigma, rejection, and discrimination, as well as having to adjust to the diagnosis, to confront the fear of losing independence, and to prepare themselves for the changes that might happen to their lives. Hence, through counseling and support, they can have more knowledge about HIV and AIDS and reduced fears and misconceptions about living with HIV and AIDS. Some research organizations, such as the Perinatal HIV Research Unit, do provide emotional and psychosocial support, and advice for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. An attitude survey was conducted with about 400 employees at the Unilever Company in Boksburg, Johannesburg, in September and October 2005 to determine whether emotional and psychosocial support could play a role in motivating people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS to live positively with the virus, in eliminating related stigma and fears. Employees from this organization were chosen as the population for this survey as a prevalence study and VCT was carried out with them in August and September 2005, so they knew and trusted the councilors who were giving results to them and they had established a relationship with them. I booked appointments for follow-up counseling sessions of 45 minutes after VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) and then told them about the support group at their workplace. The findings indicate that there is indeed a need for emotional and psychosocial support for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in the workplace. Among other findings, respondents, especially those infected, reported that they had learned that being HIV positive is not the end of the world but the beginning as long as you look after yourself you can live a normal and productive life for many years, as long as you take extra care of yourself. Most of the affected respondents reported that they had never done an HIV test before due to their own fear of the prognosis. Having acquired more facts about HIV and AIDS, those that had not been tested stated that they now planned to do so. Both groups – those who tested negative and those who tested positive – reported that they also learned about the importance of disclosing your one’s status as a means of getting support.
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