In this blog post, we will discuss what is HIV/AIDS and how to counsel them. HIV/AIDS is one of the most serious health problems affecting India today. Millions of people were living with HIV/AIDS in India; the second largest number after Africa in the world. If nothing is done now, by 2015; the situation in India might be worse than in African Countries.
Many people have died from this disease, and at the same time, the AIDS patients are increasing year by year. The Government and Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) and few others are responding to this disease and many books; pamphlets, articles have been published to educate and create awareness among the people.
What is HIV/AIDS?
AIDS is the abbreviation for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, a complex of diseases and symptoms, resulting from immunodeficiency due to a virus infection called human immune deficiency virus (HIV).
The term ‘AIDS’ comes from the fact that illness is acquired from some other person; rendering the body’s immune system deficient; so that a syndrome or group of illnesses takes hold of the person and result in progressive disease.
HIV is blood-borne, and the main route of infection is sexual. As the disease spread from individual to individual; it becomes clear that blood or blood products from infected people could pass on HIV.
Drug- abusers have been infected through sharing injecting- equipment contaminated by infected blood. Babies have become infected from their HIV-positive mother during pregnancy or birth and occasionally through breast milk.
The Counsellor and HIV/AIDS
The counsellor needs to understand the distinction between HIV and AIDS; not only because of the different challenges involved in responding to the person in these distinct categories; but also because of the serious social and legal complications associated with having the illness.
Instead of talking about AIDS, we could speak of HIV infected because many who have been infected with HIV have not yet moved into full-blown AIDS. Instead of talking about a person dying of a viral infection; we could speak of living with this infection.
Instead of saying terminal illness, we could speak of life-threatening illness since the term terminal speaks of the sickness; in terms of finality without any hope which betrays our attitudes towards this illness and death itself.
We need to keep in mind that no one dies of AIDS; but people die because of the depressed immune system which is vulnerable to opportunities infections. Instead of speaking about ‘risk group’ we could speak of ‘risk activities’ since the entire sexually active person are ‘at risk’.
HIV and AIDS Pastoral Counselling
The pastoral carers must be relationship builders. It has been shown above that counselling is a relationship (counsellor-client) that facilitates the client’s growth. In this instance, the relationship is between the pastoral caregiver and the HIV and AIDS affected person or people.
A good relationship with people living with HIV is necessary for them to open up. The counsellor will in this way facilitate the growth of the HIV-positive individual. Facilitation means creating a favourable environment toward positive growth in the person living with HIV and AIDS.
Growth here means that the pastoral counsellor will aim at enabling the client to make changes toward living positively with the HIV status.
The pastoral carer should not have a condemnatory attitude toward people living with HIV. Even if the person thinks that he or she has sinned emphasis should rather be placed on acceptance; forgiveness and reconciliation to God and His people.
The pastoral carer has the challenge to speak grace and acceptance to humans residing with HIV. He/she need to embody a gracious posture of compassion. The Bible is replete with examples of people who sinned and were in the end forgiven by using God.
A number of them are heroes of religion such as Abraham (Gen 20) and King David (2 Sam 11-12; Ps 51). The woman stuck in adultery in John chapter 8 can also use for instance of God’s choice to pardon people who come to him in repentance in place of punishing and Condemn them (cf. 1 John 1:8-9).
The pastoral caregiver should emerge as a “companion on the journey of people living with HIV. It is not sufficient to show acceptance and compassion to people living with HIV. There will always be a need to console and practically help people living with HIV as they grapple with a lot of uncertainties; and declining physical health as the disease progresses.
Pastoral care, which is useful to the needs of people living with HIV, should not be ashamed of the belief in the afterlife. Evangelical belief in that afterlife is about hope.
Therefore, the pastoral carer should not embarrass to lead people living with HIV to a place; where they too can own the assurance of a better day in the afterlife through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This hope is about a day when HIV and AIDS will be no more. Scripture’s statement on the matter of hope should use to inspire people living with HIV to hope for God’s final day.
Paul describes this wish in superb phrases when he writes: “…our citizenship is in heaven. and we eagerly watch for a saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by way of the energy that allows him to convey the entirety under his manage, will rework our lowly bodies in order that they may be like his superb body” (Phil 3:20-21).
Even a body with HIV (here on earth) will transform to be like that of the Lord Jesus Christ—There will be no HIV viruses in the afterlife. People living with HIV can live positively in the light of this anticipation. This hope is an implication of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:51-55).
In some places when HIV/AIDS was first found; it said that the person who affects with HIV/AIDS condemn as wrongdoers; or sinners that they with their families have excluded from Churches; public exposure and refuses pastoral care and even funeral rites. They face lots of problems, but today the problems cannot be ignored any longer.
The Christian must have highly responsible for this. Today it is urgent to understand that HIV/AIDS is not a simple disease of ‘sinner’ alone; it has affected everyone, no one can exclude oneself asserting.
In the Bible we can draw lessons that challenge us to fight against the disease; and to help people entrenched in it. Concern for socially and economically oppressed and discriminated people such as the poor; widows, orphans and aliens abound in the social laws and the prophets.
God is on their side and their side and the social laws sanction that they should not oppress or afflict or else God will avenge for them (Ex 22:21-23).
The Ministry and his life of Jesus Christ have shown an example of the Christian. Jesus involved in the life of people of all kinds regardless of whom they were garden; class, race, ethnicity age, religion and healed them of their different kinds of diseases.
Jesus touched and healed the unclean woman afflicted with the flow of blood (Mk. 5:25-29); Jesus healed and changed the Samaritan woman who regarded ‘a sinner’ like HIV/AIDS victims; and restored her social status.
Every human is God’s creation in God’s image and likeness and as such every person has his/her worth that has to recognize. The human worth of a person not diminished before God just because they affected with HIV/AIDS
There is a grave danger to public health and life by the spread of AIDS; because of its easy spread in today world; which have affected society in a large no. Thus, Pastoral care and counselling have a great role to play; in helping the people living with HIV because everyone belongs to God and they too must receive pastoral care.
The pastoral care task has shifted from the ‘professional’ pastor to the mutual care of believers. This mutuality of care in the church family will entail relationship building (counsellor-client) where the counsellor will facilitate the client’s faith development.