KANSAS CITY, KAN. Helping people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) move forward with their lives is the aim of a registered nurse at the Kansas University Medical Center.
Marcia Gilliland, infection control coordinator at the medical center, said in a Monday interview she organized the HIV/AIDS Wellness Group there because "I saw a real need there in regards to living with HIV."
During a Monday interview at her Bell Hospital office, Gilliland said people infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, should "not automatically be given a death sentence."
Gilliland said she personally knows someone who's been living with HIV for 10 years.
Medical advances, she explained, have changed the perception of HIV/AIDS from an invariably fatal disease to a lifelong chronic infection.
ORGANIZED AROUND the belief that people diagnosed with HIV will live with the virus for an extended period of time, the wellness group stresses spiritual, emotional and psychological balance.
"The clients are truly free to make life what they want it to be," Gilliland said, adding that a person's ability to live with HIV depends on his or her attitude toward the disease and his or her self worth.
Gilliland said the group took a holistic approach to life, including forgiveness of self, love of self, love of others, responsibility, accountability, nutrition, medical care and spirituality, "no matter what that may look like to someone."
A brochure says the group offers the following:
- A safe environment to talk.
- A place to expand personal knowledge and to grow.
- People to communicate openly and honestly with about feelings, health and lifestyle.
THE GROUP meets weekly at the discretion of those involved.
Gilliland declined to discuss the size or composition of the group because confidentiality is key to its organization.
"Confidentiality is really stressed," she said, adding that the group also was open to "significant others and family members" of persons with the virus.
However, Gilliland said, the group, which is "about more than telling stories," is not for everyone.
"Not everybody's ready for a group," she said. "Initially, people are usually angry, and they need to work that out.
"The wellness aspect of it all can really enhance their lives."
Gilliland said she neither concerned herself with transmission nor bought into stereotypes or judgments.
"There's no blame. There's no shame," she said. "Now they may need to work that out."
GILLILAND SAID the main objective is, "You don't want to ever take away their hope."
She added she thought a cure for AIDS would be found and noted, "I could not do this work if I didn't think something good was going to come out of it."
Asked if the group is accomplishing what she hoped, Gilliland said, "I've been pleased. I've been real pleased only because I think the group participants have moved forward. There have been wonderful things happening, wonderful things."
For more information about the HIV/AIDS Wellness Group, you may call Gilliland at 1-588-2779.