Determinants of Health

2. Social Support

Some experts in the field have concluded that the health effect of social relationships may be as important as established risk factors such as smoking, physical activity, obesity and high blood pressure.1

When an HIV-positive woman is cut off from family and friends, community becomes that much more important to her survival. If her HIV-positive status puts some of these remaining connections at risk, the ones she is left with are increasingly crucial.

Having someone to talk to. Someone to trust. Someone to depend on when there’s a crisis. Someone with advice she can believe in. Someone who cares. Someone who respects her. Someone who listens.

This kind of support leads to better health.

Discrimination and stigma compromise efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS, to control its spread and to provide treatment and care. They severely compromise the ability of people to manage their condition by creating stress, increasing social isolation and discouraging efforts to access health care services.2

With the social support of families, friends and community, an HIV-positive woman can feel better about herself. She can feel more confident about who she is. As a result, social support seems to act as a buffer against health problems.

And we are all part of her community.


More from Shared Health Exchange

1What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy?, Underlying Premises and Evidence Table, Public Health Agency of Canada, online as of June 2011
2HIV/AIDS and Health Determinants, A Discussion Paper for the Ministerial Council on AIDS, Prepared by Martin Spigelman Research Associates, January 2002