Finishing well

Making appointments. A person newly diagnosed with HIV is not going to remember much information. In the same appointment as you give the diagnosis, make urgent appointments for the patient with counselling and local HIV support services. In regional areas, support services may be available via teleconference.

  • Resource for GPs: the Australian Society for HIV Medicine has a resource listing relevant local services.

Resource for patients. Send the patient home with confidential access to our HIV 101 resource. This provides both emotional reassurance and basic information in straightforward language. It can tide the patient over before they can see support services.

Follow-up appointment. Make another appointment with the patient for a few days’ time to answer any lingering questions.

Caution against unplanned disclosure. People with HIV often report they went home and told the first person they met about the diagnosis. They expected to receive emotional support, but often ended up having to manage that person’s response, as well as the risk that person may go and tell others.

  • Takehome: Tell your patient it is okay to keep the diagnosis to themselves until they feel ready and able to disclose safely. Peer support workers and counselling services can assist the person with HIV to develop skills in disclosure — to the right person at the right time.

Linking a patient to HIV Peer Support.  Calling the local HIV organisation beforehand will give you a good idea of what services and staff are available to provide support to your patient.