Research on the relationship between humans and animals has identified some links between companion animals and physiological, psychological, and social benefits for the human. Adopting Robert Weiss's (1974) Theory of Social Provisions as a framework, this qualitative study explores the role of the human-animal relationship amongst 30 people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Australia. Despite the transition of HIV from a terminal to chronic condition in many developed nations, there can still be personal and social challenges accompanying an HIV-diagnosis. Thematic analysis of the 30 interviews identified themes of Attachment, Opportunity for Nurturance, Reassurance of Worth, Reliable Alliance, Obtaining of Guidance/Emotional Support, and Social Integration. Extracts coded to these themes indicated that many participants believed their companion animal motivated them to remain socially and physically active; provided an outlet for love and attachment; remained non-judgmental irrespective of the human's physical or social status; and was capable of providing both day-to-day comfort through their reliable presence, and episode-specific supportive responses during periods of heightened stress. It was proposed that for people living with a chronic and/or stigmatized condition like HIV, these aspects of the human-animal relationship may play an important part in their overall wellbeing. In conclusion, this study contributes to a greater understanding of the lived experience of HIV and provides a conceptually sound mechanism for validating the love and support that some HIV-positive people perceive in their relationship with a companion animal. This knowledge draws attention to the need to normalize, validate, and support the human-animal relationship throughout the animal's life, and death.
|Author Address||School of Social Sciences, Monash University, P.O. Box 197, Caulfield East, Victoria 3145, Australia.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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