Case Narratives

This module invites all participants to take part in an optional assessment. The assessment is based on the case narratives introduced below. At the end of each lesson in the module, you will be invited to write a short response.

You can write from the perspective of your current position in the HIV response. For instance, you might work as a receptionist or even an accountant at an HIV organisation or service. We can guarantee that, at some point, you will be asked to offer advice or assistance to someone who is struggling with some of the issues raised in the narrative.

The completed assessment can be shared with your supervisor or manager. The point of the assessment isn’t to judge whether you got the ‘right’ answer. Instead, it creates an opportunity for a discussion, which can acknowledge your existing strengths and may identify additional learning opportunities.

Introducing Eric

Eric is a 28 year old gay man who resides in Australia as an international student. He was born in Hong Kong and holds citizenship in the People’s Republic of China.

One afternoon, he calls your organisation and you answer the call. Eric explains that his most recent viral load came back detectable. His primary concern is whether this might affect his application for permanent residence in Australia.

In this module, we’ll tease out some of the different issues that could play a role in Eric’s detectable viral load, as well as the resources and services that could help improve his quality of life.

Introducing James

James is a gay man in his sixties who has been living with HIV since the mid-80s. After working in the HIV community sector, he retired in 2016 and moved to a regional town. He has been working to support himself as a casual disability support worker.

Recently James has been having difficulty at work due to dizziness, as well as tingling and numbness in his extremities. He has been experiencing depression, particularly the feeling that his life has no meaning. He is not sure that he can continue working and worries about how he will afford his rent and bills.

Introducing Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a heterosexual woman in her early 50s, who has been living with HIV since the early 1990s. She has a job she enjoys and a vibrant social network with whom she is ‘out’ about living with HIV.

Elizabeth was diagnosed late with several opportunistic infections and a CD4 count in the 40s. She lives with low ongoing viraemia and feels disappointed that she can’t reach undetectable viral load. Elizabeth has been on the same treatment regimen since the early 2010s and feels comfortable with it. However, she worries a lot about the impact HIV will have on her future health.

Recently, Elizabeth reports experiencing more side effects including mood swings, headache, and aches and pains, and this is causing her a lot of concern. Her usual doctor is a young male GP who refers her to an HIV specialist for consideration of a different treatment combination.


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I can see how things that scientific things like a detectable viral load can cause much anxiety like Eric’s visa application and for Elizabeth a low level viraemia can be a cause of anxiety for her physical health, relationships etc.
Some people may associate any physical symptoms to HIV. Wondering what James might be thinking?

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