AIDS Counseling (Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health)
AIDS counseling is a specialized branch of counseling or social work that deals with the prevention of the disease and the treatment of clients who have been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodefiency syndrome (AIDS).
The AIDS epidemic created a specialized niche for the treatment of the disease. Counselors and social workers who work in this particular field help clients who are directly affected by HIV and AIDS meet their personal, medical, financial and emotional needs. They also educate both patients and the public about the disease.
AIDS counselors teach the general public about the causes and risk factors of AIDS, and the steps necessary to prevent HIV infection. Education is also required for the people who have already been infected with HIV. AIDS counselors teach their clients how to prevent the spread of the disease via safe sexual practices, responsible prenatal care, and treatment for drug addiction.
Education about the disease, although very important, is only a small part of AIDS counseling. Because AIDS affects a wide spectrum of the population, counseling needs are as varied as those of the clients. AIDS counseling may cover substance abuse, mental health problems, preparation for death, medication and treatment approaches, financial needs, prenatal care, child care, family dynamics, and homelessness. Some of these needs require licensed professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, and psychologists to help the client; others simply require a caring lay person to help the client find the right services.
Social workers are highly involved in AIDS counseling because of the nature of their profession. Social workers act as advocates for patient's rights, arrange for community support, make arrangements for patients to go to long-term care facilities, find funds to pay for housing and medication, link the patients to social service and community outreach programs, arrange and lead support groups, plan for home care, and counsel the patients and their families.
AIDS counselors work in a variety of locations, including hospitals, community outreach clinics, public health clinics, hospices, or mental health and substance abuse facilities.
AIDS counselors work varying hours, depending upon the requirements of the facility in which they work. Often the hours are 8 A. M. to 5 P. M., Monday through Friday, but counselors or social workers may be required to work evenings or weekends, and may be on call for hospices and hospitals.
Education and training
Professional counselors are required to have at least a master's degree in counseling, although education, training, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Psychologists must have a master's degree or a Ph.D in psychology. Professional counselors are required to have 900 hours of field work or an internship.
The minimum educational requirement for social workers is a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). However, people who hold a undergraduate degrees in another discipline such as psychology or sociology may also qualify for entrance-level jobs in AIDS counseling.
BSW programs prepare students for direct care of clients. Students who major in social work must complete 400 hours of supervised field work in addition to courses in social work practice, social work policies, human behavior and social environment, research methods, social work values and ethics, study of populations at risk, and the promotion of social justice.
An advanced degree is the standard for many positions in social work including positions within the field of health care. A master's degree in social (MSW) allows the social worker to be certified for clinical and supervisory work.
Advanced education and training
The National Association of Social Workers requires social workers to complete 90 hours of continuing education classes every three years to continue their certification in the profession. Licensed professionals with advanced degrees may be required to complete more than 90 hours of continuing-education classes.
AIDS counseling is a growing profession. The national Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that growth will continue at a rate exceeding that for other occupations until at least 2008. There are several reasons why AIDS counseling continues to grow:
- increased awareness of AIDS and increased funding for prevention and treatment
- advanced medical treatment of AIDS patients
- longer life expectancy of patients
- growth of home health care and agencies now serving AIDS patients
- replacement of workers seeking career change
- stress and burnout among counselors and social workers, causing them to leave profession
- increase in population of people living with AIDS
AIDScquired immunodeficiency syndrome, caused by infection with HIV.
BSWaccalaureate degree in social work.
HIVuman immunodeficiency virus, a pathogen that gradually destroys the immune system and eventually causes death.
Lay personerson who performs a job effectively with little or no special training.
Long-term care facility that provides nursing and basic needs care when a client is no longer able to receive that care at home.
MSWaster's degree in social work.
Needs assessmentnterview conducted by a counselor with client and family, to review charts and interview other health workers to determine what specific services are required by client.
Smith, Raymond A., ed. Encyclopedia of AIDS: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Scientific Record of the HIV Epidemic. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998.
United States Department of Labor, comp. Occupation Outlook Handbook: 20001 Edition. Washington, D.C.: Department of Labor. NTC/Contemporary Publishing Co., 2000.
National Association of Social Workers. 750 First Street NE, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20002-4241. <<a href="http://www.naswdc.org">http://www.naswdc.org>.
National Minority AIDS Council. 1931 13th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Peggy Elaine Browning