Use of Mental Health and Social Support Services by People with AIDS

by Marilyn Cvitanic

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This study focuses on the provision and use of mental health care and a variety of support services by people with AIDS (PWAs). Specifically, the author examines the types and quantity of services used, who are the providers of these services, and the cost or dollar value of the care provided. The project is based on face-to-face interviews with sixty-two PWAs. Forty of these are gay men living in the Los Angeles area and the other twenty-two have a history of IV drug-use and reside in the Brooklyn area of New York City. Since the study is not designed to collect a representative sample of PWAs, the results are not perfectly generalizable. The samples reflect utilization among gay men affiliated with an AIDS services organization and IVDUs who regularly attend an AIDS outpatient clinic. The interviews covered each PWA's medical history, financial and employment background, health insurance history, living arrangements, use of medical services, mental health care and social support. The data showed that gay male PWAs affiliated with support organizations use more support services than inner-city PWAs with a history of IV drug use. While the IVDUs use a variety of services, utilization is sporadic. Additionally, lower-income IVDUs rely on support services offered by hospitals or programs provided through public agencies. The middle-class gay sample used some services offered by private providers and relied heavily on community-based organizations which grew out of the local gay community. Among IVDUs, those with more severe symptoms tend to use more support services. In the gay sample trends in support service use were difficult to ascertain, however utilization did increase during the second year after diagnosis. Finally, both the gay male sample and the IVDUs relied heavily upon family and friends for financial and practical support.

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