When HIVer Quintin E. Perez Jr. was hospitalized for pancreatitis last
year, four friends appeared at his bedside, surprising him. “It was
good to know somebody actually cares,” says Perez, 40. “If you don’t
have that support, you feel isolated and alone.”
sounds a tad obvious, think again. New research reveals that
friendships lift more than just spirits—they can mean the difference
between life and death. Earlier this year, a decade-long 1,477-person
Australian study of people over 70 found that those with extensive
networks of friends lived 22% longer.
While the Aussie study
didn’t focus on HIVers, chief author Lynne Giles says “the message is
that a wide social network is important to health.” And unlike past,
related research, this study shows that friendships—as distinct from
other support sources—foster longevity. Explains Giles, “We interact
with friends because we want to—family can be a source of stress.”
have long suggested that social ties are critical for HIVers. A 1999
study of 82 gay men reported that 66 months after being infected, those
with more social support were 40% less likely to develop AIDS than
those with a less extensive social network. In 2000, a study of 129
positive women showed that those who attended support groups lived on
average 28 months longer than those who didn’t. Longtime HIVer and
therapist Ken Howard notes that finding positive friends can be key.
“To successfully manage HIV,” he says, “you need to see others
successfully living with HIV, too.”
For his part, Perez knows at least one reason pals are irreplaceable. “I can’t talk to my mother about everything,” he says.
Looking for new pals? Try…
POZ Personals. Of the 11,000 members, one will share your love of Italian art deco tea carts. Find romance at www.poz.com.
POZ Mentor. Rookie HIVers benefit from the advice of seen-it-all veterans at www.poz.com.
Meet other bighearted HIVers by volunteering at your local ASO. Visit www. aso finder.com.