Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are serious medical conditions throughout the world today.
Left untreated, AIDS is 100% fatal; however, life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs have begun to transform HIV from an inescapable death sentence into a manageable condition.
The well-documented ways in which HIV is spread are: by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
One of the best places for those with HIV/AIDS to be cared for is at home, surrounded by the people who love them. Many people living with the virus can lead an active life for a very long time, and most of the time they do not need to be in a hospital. Being at home is often cheaper, more comfortable, more familiar, and gives those with HIV/AIDS more control of their life. In fact, people with AIDS-related illnesses often get better faster and with less discomfort at home with the help of a carer.
If you are caring for someone at home, remember that each person reacts to the virus in different physical and psychological ways. Regular updates from the person's doctor or nurse on what kind of care is needed can and should be sought. Many times what is needed is not medical care, but help with both coming to terms with emotional issues and the carrying out of the normal chores of life: shopping, paying bills, cleaning the house, and so on.
Caring for someone with HIV/AIDS is a serious responsibility, which can create a situation as stressful for you as for the person who is sick, so taking care of yourself as well as the person with AIDS is important (see respite care and taking care of yourself). You will have to work with the person to decide what needs to be done, how much you can do, and when additional help is needed. It may not feel like it sometimes, but rising to the challenges of caring for someone with the HIV infection and AIDS can be an emotionally rewarding experience for you both.
The links on the right will be a valuable source of information and support, as can your local carers centres, other charitable organisations and your social services; you may also like to meet people in the same situation by posting a message on our discussion boards or visiting our online chat room.