Faculty Publications


Searching for information, understanding, and self-value: The utilization of peer support groups by gay men with HIV/AIDS

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Social Work in Health Care





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The present study examined the patterns and variations characterizing the support group involvement of 25 gay men with HIV/AIDS. Results indicated that those men who participated in support groups on a long-term basis (i.e., one year or more) were less likely to have access to other support networks. They were also most interested in receiving and exchanging emotionally-oriented forms of support, such as empathy, acceptance and camaraderie. By contrast, the men who participated in support groups for a brief period of time (i.e., six months or less) had greater access to alternative support networks and were more interested in receiving and exchanging instrumental forms of support, such as illness-related information and examples of effective coping. Those men who elected not to participate in support groups exmphasized their relatively good health, the strength of their existing support systems and their reluctance to see others with life-threatening symptoms. Finally, regardless of whether and how they participated in formal support groups, the majority of men in this study benefitted from interacting regularly with peers. Through these interactions, they received helpful understanding, information and friendship. In addition to this, they often experienced a revitalizing sense of purpose, efficacy and mutuality which enabled them to cope more successfully with their illness. © 1996 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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