Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Offering Quality of Life: Leisure Services Can Provide Support for People with HIV and AIDS

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Offering Quality of Life: Leisure Services Can Provide Support for People with HIV and AIDS

Article excerpt


World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, is a day of reflection and education that began in 1988 following a declaration by the World Health Organization. This article, though not inclusive of all published literature, is presented in the spirit of this year's World AIDS Day theme, "Educate, Motivate, and Mobilize Against HIV/AIDS."


On June 5, 1981 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the first report regarding what would be termed acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Between 1981 and 1983, 1,450 people were infected, most of them gay and bisexual men, and intravenous drug users. Because the majority of those infected were homosexuals, the disease was initially labeled gay related immune deficiency (GRID). In 1985, actor Rock Hudson died from the disease. Americans then began to realize that large numbers of persons of all lifestyles were infected. In that same year the CDC identified the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the etiologic agent responsible for AIDS and determined that when a person's T-lymphocyte count dropped to 300 or below the diagnosis would change from HIV-positive to AIDS.

As of 2005, the CDC estimated that between 1,039,000 and 1,185,000 Americans were infected with HIV, and approximately 40,000 new cases of AIDS are reported each year. New medications and treatments are allowing those infected to live longer than ever, and what had once been a terminal disease is now seen as a chronic illness. Recreation professionals have the ability to promote healthy lifestyles and assist with health maintenance through the promotion of good nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, leisure pursuits, and increases in self-esteem (Keller, Turner and Qiu, 1998).

Leisure and Living With HIV/AIDS

Keller, Turner and Qiu (1988) were among the first leisure researchers to study persons with HIV/AIDS. People diagnosed with AIDS were found to suffer from fear of death, internal conflicts, isolation, discrimination associated with the stigma of AIDS, financial pressures and loss of meaning for the present and hope for the future (p. 37). The authors concluded that "[b]ecause leisure activities facilitate a sense of support, community, socialization, and belonging, they can make a major contribution to people in any stage of the HIV infection and their families" (p. 38).

Grossman (1991) called on recreation educators to inform themselves, practitioners and students about HIV because of psychosocial barriers faced by recreation practitioners working with persons with HIV. These barriers included fear of contagion and the unknown, a stigma related to homosexuality and intravenous drug users, fear of death and dying, powerlessness and helplessness, fear of over-identifying with participants, fear of working with difficult clients and survivor guilt (pp. 4-5). Professionals were challenged to accept their social leadership roles and advocate services (p. 10).

Kling (1991) shared that most activity programs by recreation practitioners in hospice took place in late-stage AIDS patients' rooms as physical limitations made group participation difficult. Patients were resistant to make social contacts with others, which further limited socialization and increased isolation. Interventions focused on assisting the person to see themselves as more than a disease process. Program goals addressed reductions in helplessness and increases in autonomy.

Caroleo (1994) noted that discrimination does not discriminate. The stigma of HIV/AIDS cuts across cultures and nations without regard to age, gender or social status. Psychosocial problems of persons with HIV/AIDS were determined to be social isolation, loss of income, status in the community, disruption of family/social roles and increased communication problems within the family. Family members caring for someone with HIV/AIDS encountered their own unique psychosocial problems: "decline in health of a loved one, preparation for loss and separation and bereavement" (pp. …

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