Coping With HIV Infection
Susan Folkman Margaret Chesney University of California, San Francisco
Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States know that they are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or that they are at high risk for this infection. Although some of the manifestations of HIV can be managed medically for a time, there is no cure. People who know they are infected with HIV are confronted with profound threats to their physical and psychological well-being. Gay men account for the largest number of diagnosed AIDS cases (Centers for Disease Control, 1995). These men deal not only with issues of their own health and mortality but also with interpersonal problems with families; discrimination at work, by rental agents, bankers, or other service personnel; police harassment; and physical violence from heterosexuals ( Kessler et al., 1988).
Other chapters in this volume address the role that psychological processes may have in disease progression. To date, the extent to which psychological processes influence disease progression in HIV infection is not known. Regardless of whether studies in behavioral medicine eventually show that psychological processes do or do not influence disease progression, it is important to help people who are infected with HIV maintain their psychological well-being and social functioning through the disease process.
In this chapter, we briefly describe the psychological threats posed by HIV and summarize findings describing how gay men infected with HIV are coping with their illness. Then we turn our attention to coping theory and principles of effective coping and integrate these with established stress management strategies to illustrate how these principles can be applied to an intervention to help sustain the psychological well-being of gay men infected with HIV.