Updated 24 October 2016

Basic HIV/AIDS counselling principles

The advent of HIV/Aids in the world has forced all of us to accept a paradigm shift from curing towards caring and counselling plays an important role.


Because we have no cure for HIV/Aids, we have to focus our interventions on caring for the physical as well as the psychological welfare of the HIV positive individual and his or her significant others.

The HIV positive individual needs to find ways to live a psychologically healthy life after diagnosis. The need for counsellors to assist HIV positive individuals and their loved ones are so great, that we need to equip everyone in the helping professions with the necessary skills to be effective HIV/Aids counsellors.

“The single most important requirement to be an HIV/Aids counsellor, is to have compassion for another person's struggle to live beyond the confines of a disease, and the willingness and commitment to walk the walk with this person and his or her significant others.” (Johnson, in Van Dyk, 2001.)

The aims of counselling or helping a client must always be based on the needs of the client. The purpose of HIV counselling is twofold: (1) to help clients manage their problems more effectively and develop unused or underused opportunities to cope more fully, and (2) to help and empower clients to become more effective self helpers in the future (Egan, 1998). Helping is about constructive change and making a substantive difference to the life of the client. But only the client can make that difference: the counsellor is merely an instrument to facilitate that process of change.


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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