Families and friends of people with AIDS often do not receive the same social support as do families and friends of people with other devastating illnesses, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. There is a great social stigma attached to AIDS, and many care­givers find that they have to deal with this pain on their own. Children whose parents become infected with the AIDS virus often have difficulties sorting through their own personal feelings about this.

Today, with the help of HAART therapies, many parents with HIV are living longer (see Figure 15.12). This has brought up many new issues, such as disclosure (when and how to tell family members) and adjusting to having a parent with HIV. Research has found that the majority of parents living with AIDS have discussed their illness with their family members (Rotheram-Borus et al., 1997). Overall, mothers are more likely to disclose their HIV status earlier than fathers, and they disclose more often to their daughters than their sons (Lee & Rotheram-Borus, 2002). Adolescents who were told their parents had AIDS engaged in more high-risk sexual behaviors and had more emo­tional distress than adolescents who were uninformed (Lee & Rotheram-Borus, 2002; Rotheram-Borus et al., 1997). Many people with HIV-positive family members find it helpful to become involved in AIDS-related activities such as a support group. The names of several organizations are provided at the end of this chapter.