Caring for the Whole Person with HIV: Mind, Body, and Spirit
The Very Reverend Father Drew A Kovach, MD, MDiv, ABFM
Spring 2008 - Volume 12 Number 2
When we care for our patients, we care for whole people. We strive for levels of healing that result in life being livable, not just being alive. When I first started the practice of medicine in 1973, what I wanted for my patients was good life. In caring for the HIV patients we want good health and good numbers, but more than that: we want them to have a good life.
HIV/AIDS--I finally can now call it a chronic disease--impacts every aspect of a person's life: social, economic, physical, emotional, and even spiritual. For this reason I take a holistic approach, the mind-body-spirit approach. I call it the trinity of man, three spheres intersecting with each another. In the days before Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), my patients with a balance of mind, body, and spirit did better than others. In the HAART era, disease, distress, pain in any one of these spheres always impacts the other two. And today, with medications to control the HIV virus, clinicians need to continue to manage whole people to make people whole, not just treat the numbers or the lab values.
I talk with my patients about the length of life, but I much prefer to talk with them about the depth of life. Life is both too long and too short to be miserable.
We can't just treat the mind and the body and ignore the spirit. We need to assess the patient and ourselves. We need to meet people on the road where they are, not where we think they should be.