Caring for a loved one with AIDS can be an exhausting task, both physically and emotionally. It involves managing the physical and practical aspects of your loved one’s care while struggling with the emotions of seeing someone you care for suffer and fearing the eventual outcome of the disease. It also requires taking care of yourself -- managing the stresses of caregiving and keeping yourself healthy -- so you can provide the care your loved one needs.
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People infected with HIV can develop AIDS, but not all people with HIV have AIDS.
The HIV viral load is the number of copies of the human immunodeficiency virus in your blood and other parts of your body. The HIV viral load test involves taking a blood sample from a vein in your arm. The amount of HIV in your blood is then measured. Along with other tests, the HIV viral load test helps monitor your disease, guide HIV therapy, and predict how your disease may progress. Keeping your viral load low can reduce complications of HIV disease and extend your life.
Two common test numbers...
You will need to work with your loved one with AIDS to decide what needs to be done, how much you can do, and when additional help will be needed. It’s important to be in contact with the person’s doctor for updates on health changes and care needs.
Tips for AIDS Caregivers
While specific needs will vary, these general tips will be helpful for successfully caring for someone with AIDS:
Get educated. Learning about AIDS is an important first step for caregivers because of widespread myths and fears about the disease. Learning more about the disease will not only help you know what to expect and how to care for your loved one, it can alleviate fears -- such as the fear of exposing your loved one to dangerous germs and suffering from pain or symptoms of disease or complications. You can learn skills for taking care of someone with AIDS and how to manage special situations through courses offered by organizations including the Red Cross, Visiting Nurse Association, HIV/AIDS service organizations, or your state health department.
Make the person with AIDS feel at home. For most people with AIDS there is no place like home. To make your loved one feel at home, ask what you can do to make that person comfortable. Many people are shy about asking for help, especially with tasks like bathing or using the toilet. If possible, let the person stay in a room that is close to a bathroom. Leave items the person might need, such as tissues, towels, or blankets, in easy reach.
Allow the person with AIDS to talk, but don’t insist. Don’t be reluctant to talk about your loved one’s illness. Ask if they feel like talking; they may be hesitant to bring it up, believing it will make you uncomfortable. If your friend or loved seems uncomfortable talking, change the subject. Don’t feel like you have to talk about anything. It's fine just to sit together silently -- reading, listening to music, or watching television. You can express your care and concern for the person without saying a word.