AIDS evokes powerful feelings, often manifestations of fear, among health care providers. To effectively treat patients with AIDS, occupational therapists must acknowledge and reconcile their personal feelings. One way to formulate a compassionate response to patients is to understand the meanings that we give to AIDS, meanings that shape our interpersonal behaviors. Restricted meanings—that the disease constitutes death, sin, crime, war, or community division—place the person with AIDS at risk for compromised care. Recognizing the limitations of these meanings can free therapists to find other meanings that inspire compassion.

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