AIDS Phobia – or HIV Anxiety Disorder – is an overlooked condition that affects a large demographic. People suffering from this disorder remain extremely anxious and often paranoid about contracting HIV-AIDS despite reassurance by doctors and health advisors, and have even taken blood tests that prove they are not infected. In this informative article HIV Anxiety Disorder is described and its treatment is discussed.
HIV Disclosure Anxiety
There is still no real cure for HIV-AIDS, but with the introduction and use of strong combination therapy, HIV is no longer the kiss of death it used to be. Although the gratification would be misplaced, there was really no need for the terrible anxiety so many had experienced in the past.
Where HIV was once shrouded in mystery, and even called ‘God’s revenge’, today we know that HIV is a viral infection that may be acquired via several well-established routes.
We know that HIV transmission can occur through sexual contact, blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing hypodermic needles, and being passed from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or through infected breast milk.
HIV cannot be transmitted through activities such as hugging or mostly kissing, nor can it be obtained from toilet seats, shared eating utensils, glasses, cups or plates etc as there is no need to worry about these specific areas. In fact, HIV is a virus so fragile – or rather, a retrovirus – that it can only survive for very short periods when outside the body.
What Is AIDS Phobia and Do I Have It?
Unfortunately, even though HIV has been around for over 30 years, many people remain very uninformed about the infection and how it is acquired, and thus continue to generate a great deal of anxiety, fear, and irrational prejudice. This kind of irrational fear can often be easily cleared up through education, a basic understanding of how HIV is transmitted, and knowledge of how it can be prevented.
However, prejudice, in any form or form, can be more difficult to fight. Only when we are aware of the reasons for our prejudice and are ready to see the prejudice for what it can be overcome.
But apart from the fears and anxieties that can come from basic ignorance and blind prejudice, there are other forms of fear that can develop about HIV-AIDS and this has come to be known as ‘AIDS Phobia’.
People who have this disorder – and there is a sizable and neglected demographic – remain deeply worried and often paranoid about contracting the infection despite being educated about HIV, reassured by doctors and health advisors, and have even taken blood tests that prove they are not infected and have no reason to fear or remain anxious. Such people are what have been described as ‘well-worried ones’. For such people, AIDS phobia is an extreme anxiety disorder.
Although AIDS phobia can be treated successfully, it is different from other phobias, and can often resist conventional treatments.
In my experience, AIDS Phobia is less of a simple phobia than a mental health problem that closely aligns with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
For this reason I prefer to call it HIV Anxiety Disorder or HIV AD.
Those with HIV AD share many symptoms that are very similar to those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD. These include fear about safety and security, thinking or feeling that things are dirty or contaminated, worrying about health and hygiene, and disturbing, disturbing thoughts about aggression or sex.
Fundamental problems related to sex, sexual orientation, fear of disease, neglect, or death are very common HIV Anxiety Disorders.
Often people who present with HIV AD have experienced rigorous parenting in which sex is very much a taboo subject, or where certain forms of sexual expression are immersed in, or have experienced premature sexualization, and feelings of guilt that are so strong have been unconsciously associated with sexual urges and this then becomes internalized.
In others, illness, the death of another relevant person, or the experience of being abandoned or rejected at an early, formative age has left the person with an underlying fear. Often guilt and fear go hand in hand and when these strong emotions combine, the soil is fertile for HIV Anxiety Disorder to manifest itself.
Like OCD, HIV Anxiety Disorder or AIDS Phobia can take longer to treat than other simple phobias, and the progress is not necessary linear, but the good news is that it can be treated successfully.