Psychiatric Quarterly [psaq] ph071-psaq-346681 November 7, 2001 8:23 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 1, Spring 2002 (
Psychiatric Dimensions of HIV and AIDS
in the 21st Century
Michael Blumenﬁeld, M.D.
Those of us who were C/L Psychiatrists when AIDS was recognized as
a new disease entity in the early 1980s, were aware that there were
signiﬁcant psychiatric issues intertwined with this condition. Not only
did it involve the central nervous system but also it was seen as a
uniformly fatal disease. All the psychiatric concerns that were seen
with other terminal illness’ such as cancer would apply to AIDS plus
some new ones.
The risk factors for the disease were identiﬁed as coming from intra-
venous drug use and from male homosexual activity. There was stigma
and prejudice towards people who engaged in these activities which
had powerful psychological impact on all those involved. Mental health
professionals began to work with patients as well as their families and
friends. Young people were struggling with their sexual identity and
“coming out” to their families at the same time they had to tell them
that they had a fatal disease.
Attention was also focused on the healthcare care workers, as every-
day encounters with blood and other body ﬂuids were perceived as risk
of contracting a life threatening illness. Psychiatrists were involved in
taking the pulse of the healthcare workers attitudes as well as educat-
ing them. As a large amount of funding became available for research
and treatment of this condition, the inclusion of psychiatrists and other
mental health workers in most new programs became mandatory. This
allowed a new generation of psychiatrists to participate in the next
Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine & Surgery, New York Medical College, Director of
Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry, Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, New York 10595.
2002 Human Sciences Press, Inc.