How to Counsel People with HIV/AIDS

What makes counseling people living with HIV/AIDS complicated is the fear of the stigmatization that such people live with. Brad, a leader of an online support group for people living with HIV/AIDS, shared some of his experiences with us. He recounted the number of individuals that sent him private messages before joining the group. Brad told us that the emails were often similar. They all wanted to know if their identity would be kept secret. Most people in the support group joined because of the counseling sessions that would enlighten them more about their condition. However, over 80% of them wanted to remain anonymous.
People like Brad, over the years, have developed counseling skills that make people with HIV/AIDS who wish to remain anonymous reveal their identity to their counselor. If you are considering supporting people living with HIV/AIDS by counseling them, here are some ways you can go about it:

  • Ask them relevant only questions: When you start the counseling session, keep it simple. Introduce yourself and allow the counseled to respond. Proceed by asking few simple questions. And don’t probe into their private lives. Especially important is that you should stick to the purpose of the meeting. You can ask the person about when they were diagnosed with the virus. You can also ask people suffering from this disease about how they have been coping with HIV/AIDS. We are sure that the answer to those two questions is enough to open floodgates of related conversations.
  • Listen to them without interrupting: As a counselor, your responsibility is to hear the counseled first. When counseling people with HIV/AIDS, you have to be a great listener. The health condition is one that weighs people down emotionally and the only way you can understand the plight of the counseled is to listen to their rants. By doing so, you will learn their deepest fears, hurts, pain, and what gives them joy..
  • Don’t say you know how they feel: Living with HIV/AIDS is a personal struggle. You can never fully comprehend how the person living with the virus feels. As a counselor, your role is not to say you know how the counseled feels. That line will not keep their worries away. Rather, tell them you have learned a lot about their conditions. And assure them you know about how they will manage it successfully.
  • Identify their challenges and educate them about it: People living with HIV/AIDS go through various challenges. Some of the problems include rejection by family, decline in health status, and broken relationships. Some also struggle with having a successful sexual relationship and much more. You can ask the counseled about which of those challenges they are facing. Then, you would educate them on how to handle those issues.

In a Nut Shell
You don’t have to be a professional before you can counsel people living with the virus. So, learn all you can about HIV/AIDS and volunteer as a counselor. Your first successful counseling session with people living with HIV/AIDS is a good start. However, you must encourage them to attend further counseling sessions. The other sessions would enable you to educate them more about the various stages of the disease, and how to manage it.
Photo Credit: Nextcity