The Pivotal Role of HIV and AIDS Counselling in Breaking Barriers and Stigmas

9th October 2023

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Ayanda Radebe

From the 18th to the 29th of September 2023, UKZN Extended Learning hosted the first HIV &Aids Counselling programme for the KZN Department of Health. The programme was led by two very well-experienced facilitators: Dr Sibonisile Zibane, Academic Leader in the discipline of Social Work at the School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) at UKZN and Dr Nolwazi Ngcobo, academic, social worker and Lecturer at the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN. The training aimed at assisting health professionals with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to effectively prevent, diagnose, treat, and support individuals affected by HIV&AIDS, ultimately contributing to reducing the HIV&AIDS burden in communities.

HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most severe and challenging health issues, affecting approximately 86 million people. Dr Zibane began by taking the delegates through the history and types of HIV, where she explained the different types of HIV being, HIV-1 and HIV-2, which have two different origins.

Often, a stigma is attached to people living with HIV/AIDS, where they are ill-treated in society and viewed negatively, which is different from any other person experiencing a different disease. Today, the stigma surrounding HIV&AIDS remains one of the biggest challenges individuals living with these conditions face. It perpetuates discrimination and hinders efforts to prevent, treat, and support those affected.

During the class sessions, Dr Ngcobo gave the delegates practical tasks with scenarios where they were provided with a platform to present how they would best address various situations if they faced a similar matter with patients. This exercise highlighted the need for advocacy efforts to address systematic discrimination and protect the rights and dignity of individuals living with HIV&AIDS, because by understanding the roots and consequences of this stigma, we create a society that supports and uplifts individuals living with HIV&AIDS.

The programme catered for a wide range of professionals in the healthcare sector, from nurses to social workers and psychologists, which highlights the spectrum of the emotional impact this has on individuals living with the disease. Therefore, healthcare counsellors must be trained to foster empathy and understanding among themselves and other patients.

At the end of the programme, delegates were asked to review how they found the programme and if they believed it would help them in their line of work. Below is some of the feedback received:

“The training was very helpful and reminding, especially the small aspects that we didn’t take note of. Everything from the content and knowledge that was provided was very helpful, and the facilitators are well informed.”

“The course was informative, educative and professionally motivating. I liked the clinical aspects of the course, in-depth information regarding the whole process of testing with nursing/clinical staff.”

“I find that the content capacitated me adequately for future counselling and empowerment of clients. The facilitators are so professional and very motivational, I even took videos to inspire myself as well as to listen to them every day and any day. The course met and exceeded my expectations, to be honest, because I didn’t think that such level of professionalism still existed.”

HIV & AIDS counselling is important in empowering individuals, increasing their knowledge, and providing overall well-being. By providing emotional support, education, and coping strategies, counsellors help individuals with HIV& AIDS lead fulfilling lives.