Barriers to counselling support for HIV/AIDS patients in south-western Cameroon
The potential synergy between counselling and HIV/AIDS prevention is gaining recognition in Cameroon as counselling sessions are more often organised at health centres. In order to evaluate the actual achievements of these efforts, a qualitative ethnographic survey (based on interviews and focus group discussions) was conducted in two public and two private hospitals in the South-West Province. Churches and public health officials in Cameroon are struggling with the psycho-social, philosophical, psychological, theological, social, moral, ethical and cultural dimensions of HIV/AIDS, as they seek out viable prevention strategies. Health centres are also struggling to embrace the full meaning of counselling and to make psychological and spiritual support to AIDS patients available through the centres. Patients using these health centres may receive HIV testing against a backdrop of cultural standards that allow unsafe sex and bar open discussion on sex and sexuality. We propose that reversing the trend of the epidemic requires the intervention of the State, organisations in civil society and the family. Equally crucial is the role played by the churches — especially in confronting issues of stigmatisation and abandonment that often accompany patient disclosure, and in providing spiritual, emotional and psychological support to patients undergoing treatment.