Patients with AIDS are fearful for their lives and of being stigmatized as a member of an undesirable group. The fear and misunderstanding common in high-risk groups result in delays in medical treatment. Denial is the important factor in most of these patients. The patient may have an intense fear of physicians, nurses, students, and paramedical personnel, who may have strong emotions related to this disease and its risk groups. The patient's fear is paralleled by the anxiety of the hospital workers who have to treat an individual with this disease. Their fear of contracting the disease, even by casual contact, is formidable. These fears are also present among the patient's friends and family, who often banish the patient from all activities. The patient may have been fired from a job because the employer is afraid of catching the disease. There is an unsympathetic rejection of patients with AIDS. They suffer emotional turmoil, which contributes to intense anxiety, hostility, and depression.
The interviewer should be as supportive as possible without giving false reassurances. The patients should be given as many facts as appropriate, and the staff members tending to them must be educated about the disease.
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