Counseling for HIV Infection

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Treatment Overview

During counseling, a qualified counselor helps you cope with or change your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors regarding HIV infection. Your family and caregivers may also benefit from counseling.

  • Counseling is usually short-term (8 to 20 visits), but it may take months or years.
  • You may seek short-term therapy more than once if the HIV infection progresses.

Sessions may be individual or as part of a group.

There are several types of counseling:

The choice of counseling is based on your individual needs, background, and symptoms.

Why It Is Done

  • People who are infected with HIV have a greater risk of developing depression .
  • Counseling helps you deal with the emotional aspects of the disease.
  • Grief counseling can help you deal with end-of-life issues, if needed.

How Well It Works

The effectiveness of counseling varies. Some people respond very well. Others find minimal relief. Studies suggest that counseling can effectively treat people who have HIV and who also have problems with depression.

Counseling sometimes includes becoming a member of a support group. Support groups are often good places to share information, problem-solving tips, and emotions related to HIV infection. The organizations listed in the Other Places to Get Help section of the topic Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection often sponsor support groups for people who test positive for HIV as well as for their caregivers and friends. Contact one of these organizations to find the support group nearest you.


There are no known risks.

What To Think About

Select a therapist who is trained and experienced in treating people who have HIV infection.

Counseling may be expensive, depending on the type of therapy and the provider. Check with your health plan to determine whether coverage for counseling is provided.

For more information, see the topic Depression.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofMarch 3, 2017