Dr. Lewis describes the first steps a woman should take when she is diagnosed with HIV and recalls the importance of support groups.
Women who are newly diagnosed oftentimes ask us where they should begin and we suggest to them that it’s important for them to make an appointment and keep their appointment with their doctor, not necessarily to begin medication but begin to take care of themselves and their lives to address those issues that really are not managed or being managed well to begin to develop a plan with their physician in terms of managing their plan.
For many women that includes developing support networks, and so the Southwest Center for HIVAIDS in Phoenix, Arizona has a vibrant women’s program where women can support each other. We believe this is a vital need for women being able to support one another to take care of themselves, to empower each other, to live their lives to the best of their ability. We find that that dramatically improves our individual’s quality of life.
So let me give you an example – we had a woman who came to our women’s group declaring that she was going to stop taking her medications. She was feeling suicidal. She was feeling overwhelmed and really she wanted to get support from women that had felt similarly to her.
The women around the room, within moments of her coming in, disclosed that they too had felt suicidal that day, that month, that year, and not just passively suicidal but actively suicidal where they were feeling hopeless and helpless and so they really were able to relate to her in a very deep and meaningful way, and she was able to feel that connection and identify with those women and she explained after an hour of meeting with the women that it was what she really wanted, was for other people who had been there to connect with her and to show her that while it’s challenging at times and while that many of them felt the depression that she felt that by connecting and having that support system that they would overcome it.
About Dr. Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D.:
Jennifer Lewis the Director of Prevention and Wellness at the Southwest Center for HIV/ AIDS. She oversees HIV prevention for women, men and youth, and wellness which includes medical nutrition, behavioral health and complementary and alternative medicine. She is also the owner of Mosaic Psychotherapy, LLC, a psychotherapy practice that provides consulting and counseling services to individuals and families.