Loneliness as a Disease
HIV remains a health condition that can carry a heavy burden of stigma. The fear of facing the consequences of these prejudices leads many people who learn that they are living with HIV to keep it a secret, as well as to isolate themselves more and more, worried that their diagnosis will become known.
However, loneliness, whether physical or perceived, is a factor that can have a significant negative effect on the quality of life and the health condition of those who suffer from it. In the case of people with HIV, studies have been carried out that sought to identify the consequences of loneliness.
It is More Common Than You Think
A group of researchers from Canada surveyed more than 800 people with HIV and found that a common health problem for them is the high level of loneliness in those who are younger and have mobility problems, among other factors.
In general, the probability of suffering from loneliness is higher in people living with chronic diseases than in the rest of the population. In addition, some studies on the phenomenon of lonely life in people without HIV found that this situation may be related to poorer mental health and worse cognitive performance, which worsens quality of life, reported the Working Group on HIV Treatments (gTt-HIV).
In other studies carried out in people living with the infection, it has been observed that up to 10% of them present persistent loneliness and that 26% could have an increased risk of dying in the seven years following their diagnosis.
In the Canadian study, an unexpected piece of information was found: people who said they were almost never alone were older than those who were, which is in contrast to the general population, who feel lonelier as they age.
In addition, the research team found that, when evaluating memory and the ability to maintain a clear thought, people with a lower level of loneliness obtained better results than those who felt more alone.
This reminds us that while receiving an HIV diagnosis is difficult, going through the process alone can increase the degree of difficulty. If you think you don’t have a close enough support network (family, friends), you can always look for support groups of other people with HIV, who understand the situation and can guide you along the way.
At AHF Latam & Caribbean, we have support and counseling groups in most of our centers. Visit our services section and write to us via WhatsApp to find out more.