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Living Well with HIVSexual and Reproductive HealthRaising a Family

Raising a Family

Family dynamics with HIV

Having a family can have its ups and downs. HIV is not a barrier to having a happy family life but may put challenges in our way.

Chronic sorrow may be particularly relevant in families with multiple family members who are living with HIV, or HIV positive children who may have delayed development.[i]  Children who are not HIV positive, but who live with a parent or parents who have HIV, carry the burden of HIV with very little support for their own emotional and practical needs.[ii],[iii]  On the positive side, parents feel that the presence of HIV brings focus and meaning to their lives, with family life being “precious time” to be savoured and carefully cultivated.[iv],[v]

For mothers living with HIV, the need to prepare for the future care of our children can be a complex and often difficult journey. This places a heavy emotional burden upon us as parents.[vi]

The burden of caring for the sick weighs disproportionately on women, not only because we are the main providers of care in homes, but also because many of us have lost our partners to death or divorce. Stress symptoms have been reported to be highest among HIV positive primary caregivers of HIV positive children.[vii]

[i] Melvin, D., Sherr, L. HIV infection in London children–Psychosocial complexity and emotional burden. Child: Care, Health and Development 21. 1995. P. 405-412.

[ii] Armistead, L. et al. Parental physical illness and child functioning. Clinical Psychological Review, 15. 1995. P. 409-422.

[iii] Compas, B. E.et al. When mom or dad has cancer: Markers of psychological distress in cancer patients, spouses and children. Health Psychology, 13. 1994. P. 507-515.

[iv] Faithfull, J. HIV-positive and AIDS-infected women: Challenges and difficulties of mothering. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 67. 1997. P. 144-151.

[v] Hackl, K. L. et al. Women living with HIV/AIDS: The dual challenge of being a patient and caregiver. Health & Social Work, 22. 1997. P. 53-62. 

[vi] Wiener, L. et al. Parental psychological adaptation and children with HIV: A follow-up study. AIDS Patient Care & STDs, 9. 1995. P. 233-239. 

[vii] Ryan, S.D. Caregivers of children infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS. Case Western Reserve University. 2001. 

Poll – English Support Groups – English

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Peer support by, with and for women living with HIV creates an enabling environment for us to feel empowered and take control of our lives again after an HIV diagnosis.

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Last modified on: Jun 23 2014687UK13NP05586-10