The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and the virus that causes it (human immunodeficiency virus Type I, HIV-1) have challenged the world's scientists, health care systems, and public health policies as much or more than any medical problem in recorded history. Perhaps this is because AIDS and HIV infection constitute more than a medical problem; they are enmeshed in psychological, social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Consequently, AIDS/HIV affects -- and is affected by-all these contexts. A problem of such massive proportions requires extensive collaborative efforts between biomedical and behavioral scientists at the basic, clinical, and public health levels to inform intervention and prevention efforts.
Although much basic research in virology and immunology can be accomplished within the biomedical domain, biobehavioral disciplines such as behavioral medicine offer more opportunities for the comprehensive approach necessary to confront the AIDS/HIV problem. Behavioral medicine encompasses the entire health-illness spectrum, from basic scientific exploration of brain-body mechanism issues to public health strategies for disease prevention and health promotion at the community level. Applied to the problem of AIDS/HIV, this model suggests that the health and well being of individuals affected by HIV are not solely dependent on the achievements of medicine. Such an assertion is particularly important to reinforce at this time when there is no medical cure for AIDS and the possibility of a vaccine is distant. To the extent that psychosocial and behavioral variables influence risk of exposure to HIV infection, quality of