HIV/AIDS in developing countries: heading towards a mental health and consequent social disaster?
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The HIV/AIDS pandemic will have massive implications for mental health in sub-saharan Africa. While research in developed countries in quite advanced in this area, and while some of this research is relevant and important in developing countries, understanding and dealing with a disease of relatively low prevalence and which is mostly under control is vastly different from the considerations required of a growing epidemic which seems likely to kill a significant proportion of the population. The mental health implications of HIV/AIDS will be felt by individuals, families , communities and society as a whole. This article looks at the mental health of people who are unsure of their HIV status, people diagnosed as HIV-positive, the family and caregivers of HIV-positive individuals, people left behind following AIDS deaths and of society as a whole. Given the magnitude and pervasiveness of HIV, it is argued that the mental health "whole" will be far greater that the sum of the parts. This means that much more research and interventions will have to be put in place in order to obviate a potential mental health and social "disaster".