In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section HIV/AIDS

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Social Work and HIV/AIDS
  • Ethics and Human Rights
  • Voluntary Counseling and Testing

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Social Work HIV/AIDS
Peter A. Newman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0062


AIDS is one of the most catastrophic epidemics ever to befall humankind. Over 1 million people have been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States, and 565,000 have died. Globally, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV; more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV since the epidemic began. An estimated 7,400 people are newly infected every day. The needs and challenges in addressing the epidemic—working with and supporting people living with HIV (PLHIV), partners, children, families, and communities affected by HIV, key populations at higher risk, and the multiple systems that impact their lives—draw on the full array of skills and competencies of social workers on individual, interpersonal, familial, community, and structural levels.

General Overviews

A few landmark contributions in social work provide a broad overview of the AIDS epidemic and the multiple roles and responsibilities of social workers. Earlier texts (Aronstein and Thompson 1998, Lynch 2000, Shernoff 1999), in addition to providing a context for understanding HIV/AIDS at present, continue to offer valuable lessons in an evolving epidemic in which many of the same basic challenges persist. Poindexter 2010 offers multifaceted social work perspectives anchored in a human rights framework, while Friedman, et al. 2006 provides a social-structural perspective for future research and policy. The CDaC website provides access to a broad range of information on HIV/AIDS in the United States. UNAIDS produces essential reports on the global epidemic and reviews effective strategies for intervention (UNAIDS 2008a; UNAIDS 2008b; and UNAIDS, et al. 2004).

  • Aronstein, D. M., and B. J. Thompson. 1998. HIV and social work: A practitioner’s guide. Haworth Psychosocial Issues of HIV/AIDS. New York: Haworth.

    Covers important basic and advanced skills for social workers in HIV/AIDS, with a focus on health-care and mental health needs and settings.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS.

    Offers a wide array of periodically updated information on HIV/AIDS in the United States, arranged by population and by topical issue.

  • Friedman, S. R., S. C. Kippax, N. Phaswana-Mafuya, D. Rossi, and C. E. Newman. 2006. Emerging future issues in HIV/AIDS social research. AIDS 20.7: 959–965.

    DOI: 10.1097/01.aids.0000222066.30125.b9

    An important and insightful overview of social, ecological, political, and economic challenges at the vanguard of HIV and its prevention.

  • Lynch, V. ed. 2000. HIV/AIDS year 2000: A sourcebook for social workers. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    An overview of HIV/AIDS and its challenges across various populations: women, parents and children, adolescents, older people, gay men, drug users, African Americans, Latinos, and caregivers. Discusses the roles of social workers, from psychosocial, medical, and ethical perspectives, in an ecosystems framework.

  • Poindexter, C. C., ed. 2010. Social services and social action in the HIV pandemic: Principles, method, and populations. New York: Wiley.

    A handbook on social work and HIV, designed for social work and human services practitioners, managers, and students, and also for people living with HIV (PLHIV), that addresses practice and policies regarding the HIV pandemic.

  • Shernoff, M. 1999. AIDS and mental health practice: Clinical and policy issues. Haworth Psychosocial Issues of HIV/AIDS. Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

    Addresses a broad range of issues faced by people living with HIV from diverse communities, as well as strategies for intervention.

  • UNAIDS. 2008a. HIV terminology guidelines. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS.

    Words have power. Misguided use of language can communicate and support stigma and discrimination. This is a helpful and informative resource on preferred terminology, common terms, and resources.

  • UNAIDS. 2008b. Report on the global AIDS epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS.

    Overview of the global epidemic, updated biannually, including statistics and international responses.

  • UNAIDS, UNFPA, and UNIFEM. 2004. Women and HIV/AIDS: Confronting the crisis. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS.

    Examines the disproportionate impact of HIV on women, and the role of discrimination, poverty, and gender-based violence.

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