Why I am grateful
My story is simple
A woman in her early 50s, professional, educated and savvy… with pretty much all going for her or so she thought…until one blood test and one conversation changed all that… or at least she thought it did.
You see I lived overseas and had been in a relationship with a person who I knew and trusted, I had sex without a condom maybe twice, so this diligent and savvy woman (what irony) on returning to Australia a couple of months later did as I usually did and had a thorough blood work up…never contemplating HIV, more, other ‘potential’ STIs.
Yes to answer your question, I had been dreadfully ill a couple of months prior, which was diagnosed as a myriad of things but certainly not HIV. This story is not about my condition or how I got it, it is about my experience of my diagnosis, the support I was provided and the critical importance of your role as an Educator.
The doctor who had the unenviable task of telling me my results was as equally ill-equipped to tell me the diagnosis as I was to hear it but, thanks to my specialist coaching her, my experience would have been much worse than it was.
Don’t get me wrong, the local doctor was a sweetheart, around my age, professional and empathic and told me directly the outcome of the initial tests and the next steps, ie: I was going to the local clinic ASAP to meet with the medical team to confirm the diagnosis.
She was visibly upset for me, I could tell this experience had also unsettled her. She admitted this was her first experience and had it not been for the support and coaching provided to her by my specialist prior to seeing me, it would have been an even more traumatic experience for her and myself.
This is where you all come in… and where your role in educating your peers and others in your field is critical for the patient’s wellbeing.
Your ability to convey the latest HIV information, the process and support areas (post initial diagnosis) is so important to the poor devil sitting there thinking that life as they know it has ended. Their life expectancy and any potential for intimate relationships severely impacted (at a minimum).
Although my professor had positioned my doctor well, I know she did not have the latest information on HIV, did not know the outcome of the latest studies and the current laws on disclosure. By the way disclosure is another kettle of fish – a very personal experience. I would not advocate either way. It is very much up to the individual.
My request of you
Please ensure you share the latest information with your colleagues and help them to understand, so when the next poor devil is sitting in front you or someone else, you can give them some solace to know it truly will be ok because research and other real live HIV patients have told you so.
And yes I understand you may be cautious in providing this information due to your role in the process, your profession or your personal values/bias/experiences, but let the patient be the judge of the information. Just tell them the facts.
Many thanks for your amazing dedication and continued support.