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Aids and the media

Aids and the Media

AIDS and the Psychological Disorders Caused By Illicit Drug Use and the Media

It is pretty easy to understand how people diagnosed with AIDS would be willing to do and/or try anything to help themselves; as well as being more susceptible to not only opportunistic diseases, but also diseases of the mind. The pressures and stress that AIDS patients must face is incomprehensible to those of us who do not face death everyday, waiting for the next illness to take over, waiting to die; their minds must go numb with black thoughts. The media too is at fault for helping to make AIDS sufferers deadened with their hyped up miracle drugs and advertisements of greater life; then the disappointment that comes when the drugs don’t do and fix all they say they will. That is so much stress on your brain, your mind, and your physical self. There are so many psychological aspects to the AIDS virus that it is almost impossible to say that victims of it would not be psychologically affected in some way. I have decided to use two different articles in this paper to describe the ways in which AIDS patients are psychologically affected by the media and the pressures of the disease itself. The first article is from The Archives of General Psychiatry called Psychiatric Disorders and Drug Use Among Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Adults in the United States. The second is written by Jayson Blair and is called Healthy Skepticism and the Marketing of AIDS. I think that by putting these two articles together we can get a really good idea of how psychologically impaired AIDS patients can become with the of AIDS propaganda put forth by the media in addition to and combined with the use of illegal and illicit drugs.

Nearly half of the sample used in the first study screened positive for a psychiatric disorder, 40% reported using an illicit drug other than marijuana, and more than 12% screened positive for drug dependence during the previous 12 months. Psychiatric and substance abuse disorders among people with human immunodeficiency virus infections may impair quality of life, adversely affect the need for the use of health services, impact health outcomes, and compromise adherence with complicated medication regimens. Psychiatric and substance abuse disorders may also be associated with unsafe sexual and needle-sharing behaviors that increase the likelihood of HIV transmission. To me it sounds so obvious, mixing a deadly disease and mind-altering drugs it would be impossible to think that these people would not obtain some type of substance abuse problem or psychological disorder, especially ones like anxiety, depression, GAD, panic attacks. You have just been told that you are dying: that you have a horrible, debilitating disease: how is it possible not to develop some mind/mood altering disease or "bad habit"? I think the desperation that would evolve from being told that you have AIDS, that you are going to die would send people to all different ends of the Earth to do whatever they could to make themselves "feel better" no matter what that might be. Why not use crack cocaine or heroin, what is there to lose? I believe this is the attitude is common among AIDS sufferers. They have already been given a death sentence so why not use drugs, what risk is there?

The majority of the 2864 participants were men and between the ages of 35 and 49 years. Approximately half of the sample was nonwhite and more than 40% were heterosexual. Almost two thirds were not employed and more than 40% reported annual incomes of less than $10000. Most of the sample had an advanced stage of HIV disease. Nearly half of the population screened positive for one or more of the 4 psychiatric. More people screened positive for mood disorders than for anxiety disorders. More than one third of the population screened positive for major depression and more than one quarter experienced symptoms of dysthymia. 21% of the population screened positive for both major depression and dysthymia. More people screened positive for GAD than panic attacks and 5% screened positive for both GAD and panic attacks. (Archives of General Psychology)

On the other side of this we have the psychological aspects of what happens to AIDS patients when they combine illicit drugs with the disease and a lot of other factors are present. Depression in HIV-infected persons has found to be approximately 28%. This is one of every four people with HIV and AIDS suffering from depression and the percentage is higher in gay men. Individuals who were heavy alcohol users compared with those who did not drink were also more likely to screen positive for a psychiatric disorder than those who did not consume alcohol. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders, drug use, and drug dependence among people receiving care for HIV disease in the United States appears to be high. Having many HIV and AIDS related symptoms was a strong predictor of having a psychiatric disorder. In addition to being intrinsically unpleasant, HIV related symptoms may serve as a salient reminder of disease status and thereby increase psychological distress and anxiety. It is also possible that the use of illicit drugs may be associated with factors such as poor health maintenance behaviors that may weaken the immune system and lead to increased symptomatology. Although casual inferences can be made these results highlight the important connection between the experience of HIV-related symptoms and psychiatric disorders and drug dependence. Another interesting point made in the article states that unemployment and work-related disability were found to be independent predictors of screening positive for a psychological disorder. This may be because people with psychiatric problems have a more difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment. Another explanation may be that as HIV disease progresses, infected individuals may lose the ability to work and may not feel like productive members of society. The lack of ability to work may lead to decreased personal income, which may also contribute to distress. Living alone too other than with a spouse or partner was predicative of screening positive for a psychiatric disorder and drug dependence. This may be because of the stability and social support that one may obtain in a committed relationship. (Archives of General Psychology) All in all I feel that is it pretty safe to say that AIDS/HIV virus stricken people suffer greatly and the psychological side effects and disorders named in the preceding paragraphs are understandable and justifiable from what these diseased people go through. Illicit drugs are in my opinion, a different story. Drugs are a choice, once you use it is not normally necessary to continue use besides addiction. In the cases used in this study of AIDS/HIV patients drug use is definitely more forgivable and reasonable.

The next article is called Healthy Skepticism and the Marketing of AIDS, by Jayson Blair. In this article we see how advertisements for AIDS drugs promote healthy young men mountain climbing and sailing boats persuades consumers to buy their product in the hopes that these sick me will be able to recuperate and too be able to toss the football around and throw heavy javelins. This is unrealistic and is why the Food and Drug Administration ordered Merck (this specific pharmaceutical company) to recall the ads because they are "not generally representative of HIV patients and do not adequately convey that these drugs neither stop or kill HIV infection nor reduce its transmission." In reality most of us know that it is not possible to stop, kill, or reduce transmission in AIDS or HIV when we see these ads, however, our minds are not altered by the fact that we already have and are living with a killing disease. If I were terminally ill and saw an advertisement that showed people with the same disease laughing, playing, and seeming healthy I would run to my doctor and ask about it and for a prescription. I think that most people in the United States live that way, especially when we are sick. Just because we are talking about AIDS and HIV that doesn’t mean we cannot understand. We understand the advertisement world. A poor analogy is a look at clothing companies: they put beautiful models in just average clothes and hundreds of thousands of teenagers run out to the stores and buy them. Advertisement agencies make their fortunes this way by taking a product that may or may not work, making it look fantastic, and showing it to consumers so that they will be buy; and they do! Drugs are no different, especially when people become desperate enough. The ads are misleading not only to those who suffer from AIDS, but also the general public. These advertisements give the phony impression that a cure is close to being found, they numb the disease down by making it appear that it doesn’t really matter any more if you do have it because they have these "miracle" drugs that will make you look and feel fine. So let’s look at the psychological aspect of what this might do to a person. You see an ad and suddenly realize that there is a way for you to "be normal" again. There are these drugs that you decide to invest a lot of time, money, and hope into only to find that you are neither acting nor feeling better not to mention nothing at all like those advertisements told you that you would feel. The disappointment is grave and I believe you are now worse off then before you took the drugs because morale is way low. Depression now also becomes an opportunistic disease, just another to add to the list of an AIDS patient.

There are so many problems already: to add to the list of an AIDS patient psychological disorders is just cruel and the media has no right. I believe that false advertisements have become a part of our culture. When it comes to clothing and video games I understand that the manufacturers need to make it appealing to the consumer so that they will run out and buy it. However, when an ad allows a dying person to be tricked into believing that they will miraculously be made better, when an ad forces a sick person to become enthralled with their drug and survival only to be let down in the end, the ad company is at fault. The ad company needs to take responsibility and make their ads appropriate so that AIDS and HIV sufferers to not expect the miracle picture that Merck provided in their ads.

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