HIV / AIDS counsellors perform several roles such as counselling, education, campaign planning and policymaking.
AIDS is a disease which affects the human immune system due to the HIV virus. Though this disease is being thoroughly researched, there is still no breakthrough with regard to its cure. One of the responsibilities of an AIDS counsellor is to impart information about the disease as well as to provide detailed instructions for its prevention among the members of the public, in the workplace and within the family. Thus, their job entails making individuals aware of their risk of contracting the disease and transmitting the virus to others.
AIDS counsellors prepare an individual who has been advised to take an AIDS test, helping the individual to understand the meaning of the test and also the implications in case there is a positive diagnosis. They support and assist individuals that have already been diagnosed with the disease by talking to them of the problems they face in society, helping them to overcome the trauma and by putting in place various coping mechanisms to help the individual to lead as normal a life as possible. The counsellor's role of understanding and accepting them as human beings cannot be undervalued.
These counsellors also lend support to those people who have just had a friend or a family member diagnosed with AIDS or for those who have lost a friend or family member to the disease. Practical advice on how to deal with day-to-day problems encountered by AIDS patients is also another area that AIDS counsellors must excel in. This can cover aspects such as finding legal advisers, medical services and housing.
AIDS counsellors also play an active role in setting up and running AIDS awareness campaigns. They are responsible for educating the broader population about the virus and on how to protect themselves against infection.
In addition, some counsellors are employed by industry to develop HIV/AIDS policies and strategies for their organisation. Others may be a consultant to companies and run AIDS awareness and education programmes, as and when required.
Volunteers can contribute to being an AIDS counsellor by assisting organisations that work for the benefit of AIDS patients. They can help by being a friend to the patient and assisting them in their homes, or helping them with household tasks. Some counsellors work exclusively on telephone hotlines offering advice and support as well as information about AIDS.