I was never a counselor before. Never in my life have I imagined myself in front of a client advocating behavior change and HIV prevention. I’m a nurse and I know that health promotion is vital in promoting wellness, but the challenge is never the same as sitting face-to-face with a person discussing sensitive matters and telling their stories.
HIV-related issues are often difficult to take up: sex, sexuality, gender, discrimination, and stigma. With the increasing incidence still largely disregarded, the struggle for awareness and prevention has never been this tough. Cases are shooting up as social media becomes an easy access for sex partners that could lead to risky sexual practices. People fear screening. Government and civil society organizations have scaled up their battles, but at the end of the day, it’s still about numbers that matter. The Philippines is now reporting 12 new cases a day, but any reduction, even in deaths, is nowhere in the data.
Prevention is the best and only thing we can do right now as there is yet no final conclusion to scientific findings of a possible cure. It is not about when and how but it’s about what we do NOW. This is where our role starts, the point where we accept the challenge. This is us. This is me. A counselor. An advocate.
As a counselor, I learned to treat every person as an individual with needs and vulnerabilities, not as mere fractions of the statistics. A counselor and the client explore and discover, and act as partners.
It is normal for clients who come to the ASP ICON Clinic for testing and counseling to have apprehensions. They are not alone in this. We let them express their feelings about the process, and help them identify any risks associated with their lifestyle. We aim for their awareness towards a positive and healthy behavior change. We want them to grow and eventually be advocates to other people.
Counseling is a two-way process, with the clients learning from us and us learning from them. We grow and are fulfilled whenever we touch someone’s life. The positive feedback we receive is enough to devote our time more and continue with what we do. The ASP ICON Clinic is blessed with so much support from people and that inspires us more to attain our goal to live in a world where HIV is no longer a disease ignored, feared and disregarded by people.
Counseling also gives us the chance to meet different kinds of individuals of varying perspectives about the disease. It is always about making sure that each client would feel valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, religion, culture, or social status, and without being judgmental.
From all these, I sure will continue to be a counselor. The pride of being one has been immeasurable. This is not just a job for me but more of a mission and a lifelong advocacy.