Women who are living with HIV or AIDS could find coping becomes easier by adopting a furry pet, if possible. Studies from Case Western Reserve University show that women suffering from chronic illness manage themselves better when they are engaged in social roles. (1)
Pets help these women stay on track with their treatment. Taking care of the pet automatically helps them take care of themselves. Women organize their day in a way that includes taking care of their pet.
In doing things like taking their pets for their walks, arranging (buying, serving, cleaning) for their meals, they get the physical activity they should get to keep fit and support their own treatment. It helps them be more aware and in-tune with their own medication, dosage and timings, and keeping the doctor’s appointments.
A pet provides them much-needed psychological and emotional support. This is especially important when women with HIV or other chronic illnesses are living alone.
Nursing instructor and lead author of the study, Allison Webel, from the Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School, put forth her findings in Women’s Health Issues journal entitled, "The Relationship Between Social Roles and Self-Management Behavior in Women Living with HIV/AIDS".
According to Webel, “Much information is available about the impact of work and family roles, but little is known about other social roles that women assume. Being a pet owner was an important surprise. Pets -- primarily dogs -- gave these women a sense of support and pleasure.” (2)
In her research, Webel conducted a study on 12 focus groups with 48 women in total to assess how they were able to keep healthy. Their average age was 42 years old. Most of them had children and almost half of them were living by themselves.
While the study was still in progress, six major social roles emerged which either helped or obstructed these women from managing their health condition. The social roles were those of pet owners, mother, faith follower, health advocate, stigmatised patient and employee.