The effect the experiences of volunteer HIV counsellors have on their own well–being : a case study
Van Aswegen, Louise
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The aim of this qualitative interpretive research was to explore the experiences of HIV counsellors and how these experiences influence the counsellors' psychological wellbeing. The complexities of the context within which HIV pre and post test counselling occurs form the day-to-day real ity of barely trained volunteer counsellors whose task it is to counsel, inform and educate people at grass roots concerning HIV. The guiding question of the current research pertained to the experience of HIV counselors regarding the influence of their work on their own well-being. A case study design was used. In depth interviews were conducted with nine Sotho speaking HIV counselors working in primary healthcare clinics in the Sedibeng region of Gauteng. Additional data was collected through observation. Data was initially coded, using axial coding; this was followed by thematic analysis. The focus was .on the psychological well-being of the volunteer HIV counsellors. The data indicated that the participants were not overwhelmed by the many stressors of their challenging occupations. They succeeded in developing their own ways of stress relief especially through practising their spiritual beliefs and other means like participating in community activities and meaningful relationships of significant other. They experienced personal growth and empowerment in general, but especially in the field of health and sexuality. The female participants were increasingly able to negotiate safer sex. Participants' lives were enriched through amongst others the regard they received from their communities, and being in a position to give information and advice that they gained from the training and exposure to information. The participants experienced feelings of self-worth in that they were able to contribute to their communities and thereby adding meaning to their own existence. It became clear that their character strengths such as wisdom, courage, humanity, justice and transcendence enabled them to function and grow in their difficult situation. The research highlighted that the inner strengths and virtues of the volunteer counsellors enable them to persist, in challenging work conditions and socio-economic circumstances. Difficulties facing volunteer HIV counsellors that became clear are the lack of support and recognition they have to contend with. It is therefore recommended that more attention should be given by the relevant stakeholders to strengthen the support and to make more resources available to them.
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