The Effects of HIV/AIDS Education on the Anxiety of Rehabilitation Workers

By All, Anita C.; Fried, Juliet H. et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, October-December 1997 | Go to article overview

The Effects of HIV/AIDS Education on the Anxiety of Rehabilitation Workers


All, Anita C., Fried, Juliet H., Roberto, Karen A., Shaw, Dale G., Richter, Judith M., The Journal of Rehabilitation


Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a serious illness and public health crisis that merits the concern of everyone. In the future, every human service worker will be in contact with an individual with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS. The rate of confirmed cases is rising in alarming numbers. No other medical event in recent history has produced the amount of public fear and private response as the AIDS epidemic (Dworkin & Pincu, 1993; Ostrow, 1988). This fear may well be the driving force behind all behavioral responses to AIDS.

Greater knowledge about the transmission of HIV infection, the prevention of its spread, and the provision of support services for rehabilitation workers providing care to persons with HIV/AIDS will hopefully counteract these fears (Cole & Slocumb, 1993; Hurley & McGriff, 1989). Participation in formal education programs is one avenue through which rehabilitation professionals can obtain accurate information about HIV/AIDS (Horsman & Sheeran, 1995; Hunt, 1995; Souheaver & Benshoff, 1996).

Many factors have exacerbated the anxieties of human service workers and the general public about working with individuals with HIV/AIDS. These factors include the fact that individuals who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are generally young and frequently members of groups already socially stigmatized. Media attention associated with HIV/AIDS has had the unintended consequence of increasing homophobic attitudes (Magruder, Whitbeck, & Ishii-Kuntz, 1993). Correlational studies that examine attitudes toward AIDS have found that individuals who hold anti-homosexual attitudes are more likely to support repressive measures against people with HIV/AIDS (Magruder et al., 1993; LePoire, Sigelman, Sigelman, & Kenski, 1990; Price & Hsu, 1990; Stipp & Kerr, 1989). Positive behavior scores have been found to be related to having a previous contact with a person with AIDS, expressed confidence in medical information, being nonreligious, and previous attendance at an HIV/AIDS in-service (Atchinson, Beard, & Lester, 1990, Samuel & Boyle, 1989) Men are more likely than women to hold repressive attitudes, and individuals over the age of 50 are more likely to believe in casual transmission than their younger counterparts (Seltzer, 1993).

Human service workers are being called upon to provide health care, counseling, rehabilitation, and support services to persons with HIV/AIDS. Research has indicated that education is one method to prepare human services workers begin to deal with their attitudes and anxieties about the disease and the individuals affected by the disease (Gershon et al., 1994; Souheaver & Benshoff, 1996). Educational efforts directed toward feelings and attitudes along with increasing knowledge about the disease may reduce the anxiety connected with providing services to persons with HIV/AIDS (Hunt, 1995).

Literature Review

The literature review for this study concentrated on three areas: (1) anxieties and fears concerning HIV/AIDS, (2) the effects of HIV/AIDS education, and (3) HIV/AIDS and the rehabilitation worker. Overall, the lack of research with rehabilitation workers was quite evident. Research has been dominated by work done with health care workers and other human service workers, such as occupational therapists, social workers, mental health workers, and workers in substance abuse facilities. If rehabilitation workers are going to be effective in the delivery of services to persons with HIV/AIDS, they must have current and accurate knowledge about the disease. Rehabilitation workers must be aware of their own attitudes towards persons with this disease, and how these attitudes affect their interaction with these clients. Rehabilitation workers' knowledge of the effect of disability on clients' lives can be utilized to develop educational programs aimed at reduction of anxiety and service delivery to these clients. …

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