Nearly one third of patients diagnosed with HIV feel their lives actually improved after discovering they had the affliction, according to a study released on Thursday. Of 449 HIV-positive people surveyed in three U.S. cities, 32% said their lives got better after being diagnosed with HIV because they became less worried about financial and other problems. The percentage of people who felt their lives were better was roughly the same in all three classes of HIV patients--those without AIDS symptoms, those experiencing some health complications, and those with AIDS. About one quarter of the patients said their lives were about the same, and 29% said life had become worse after being diagnosed.
Study director Joel Tsevat, of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said the findings fit with anecdotal reports from nurses and psychologists as well as the results a smaller study he conducted in the mid 1990s. Many of the patients with improved outlooks said they were getting more out of life than before the diagnosis, Tsevat said, adding, "They don't take things for granted like they used to, such as a nice day."
Tsevat cautioned that because the research was done on patients in the United States, it might not apply to those living with HIV in countries that do not have the same level of medical and welfare support systems. He also warned that the results are not an excuse for people to be less concerned about the disease or their own medical safety. "That would send the wrong message," he said.
The researchers plan to track the patients they interviewed over the next 15 months, with the hope that their findings will help develop ways of helping people to cope with the illnesses.