Individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS may have difficulty coping with the fact that they have the disease. While no individual wants to be told they have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), HIV can be a particularly difficult condition to be diagnosed with, leading many people to falling into depression. WomensHealth.gov states that depression is twice as common in individuals with HIV than the general population, highlighting the need for effective strategies to combat this problem.
Recently, a study from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University found that having a pet, particularly a dog, can help women with HIV/AIDS cope with their condition. According to researchers, these findings may end up being applied to women with other chronic diseases as well. “Much information is available about the impact of work and family roles, but little is known about other social roles that women assume,” said researcher Allison Webel. “Pets – primarily dogs – gave these women a sense of support and pleasure.” When asked about the effect that pets have on their lives, female study participants said that their cat or dog knows when they’re in a bad mood, and is always there for them. This suggests that encouraging patients to get a pet may be one simple way to offer comfort for individuals with HIV/AIDS. More research should be conducted into whether these findings can apply to individuals with cancer and other potentially life-threatening chronic conditions.
The scientists also discovered that women in their study had a strong drive to go out and encourage others to avoid engaging in the kind of behavior that could make them sick, such as not practicing safer sex.