Client education at the point of diagnosis

To establish the education needs of a client at the point of diagnosis, acknowledge that each person is different in how they respond to their diagnosis and what questions they may have.  People’s level of health literacy is variable and responses to open-ended questions may help target information to levels that will be understood and assist in prioritising the individual’s concerns. It is important to remember at the point of diagnosis, people are often overwhelmed. The nurse can provide written material, direct clients to suitable internet sites (if appropriate), acknowledge that the diagnosis may be overwhelming and allow clients to ask and repeat any questions they may have.  (See Section 1 New diagnosis of HIV for further information.)

After clarifying the client's main concerns, other critical points to discuss include:

  • HIV is a treatable and manageable chronic disease
  • Treatment is safe, highly effective and most beneficial if started as soon as possible after diagnosis
  • There are many supports available (including psychosocial, community and peer supports) - see to locate services in the relevant state or territory
  • Contact tracing and partner notification are important, and the nurse can explain ways this can be done (see also Partner notification and contact tracing)
  • There are effective ways to prevent onward transmission. Nurses can educate clients that if they achieve an undetectable viral load by adhering to their antiretroviral therapy, they will not transmit the virus sexually - Undetectable = Untransmissible.
  • How to disclose their status in the future (Note: the legal framework around HIV disclosure varies in each state and territory – see: