HIV is both a biomedical disease and a social phenomenon that is constructed in particular cultural contexts. A successful and humane HIV cure requires not only the science of eradicating pathogens, but also the art of healing to restore harmony between mind and body. Healing in the context of HIV cure will be both personal and interpersonal, biological and social, and will involve rebuilding connections between HIV patients and their social environment. Social conceptions of healing have been highlighted in many regions with rich non-biomedical healing traditions, including China. Based on an adapted theoretical model on social relationships and health, we address the essential role of social relations for HIV healing in Chinese cultural context, and propose several recommendations for reforming practices and policies regarding HIV healing. In general, family is still a core social unit in HIV patients’ medical journey from diagnosis to treatment. A positive patient–physician relationship based on mutual respect and trust also has critical impact on patients’ physical and mental health. Physicians may become a key or the main source of social support in circumstances when families are not actively engaged in healing. Reconnecting HIV patients with their communities should be a necessary component of HIV cure, as this will help patients engage more fully in the HIV healing process. We call for a family-centered approach in HIV healing intervention to strengthen patient–family ties; a series of policies to build up and sustain positive patient–physician ties; and multi-level strategies to empower patients and rebuild their bonds to community and larger society. We also call for more empirical research on how non-biomedical healing approaches in various cultural settings could (directly or indirectly) inform HIV cure research.
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Published in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, Volume 15, 2015, pages 115-127.
© 2015 Zhang et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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