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New Online Training to Meet Needs of HIV/AIDS -Affected
Canadian program targets care givers and mental health service providers

A new online resource has been launched to train service providers and care givers to meet the mental health needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Called PHASE:  A Program in HIV/AIDS Education, the 11-module adult education -oriented program is the result of collaborative efforts between Health Canada and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).

Five years in development, the modules contain visual aids, summaries, learning goals, topic details and references.  They're also available on CD-ROM.

Although intended for use by psychology service providers, the training - to help all people affected by HIV/AIDS - is available in English and French to anyone in the world.

The announcement was made yesterday in Ottawa as part of the Canadian Psychological Association's (CPA) annual conference.

(L to R) Health Canada's Nena M. Nera with PHASE authors Dr.'s Lynda J. Phillips, Jennifer Hendrick and Paul C. Veilleux (Absent:  Dr.'s Bill Coleman and Sean B. Rourke)
Said Dr. Paul Veilleux, who headed-up the development team, "This is ... the first training programme on HIV with valuable resources available on the Internet.  The document will be updated on a regular basis and will be accessible from all different regions of Canada and around the world.  Psychologists and others working in the HIV/AIDS field will be able to adapt this manual according to their specific needs."

A lack of psychological support services for people living with HIV in Canada has long been identified as a serious concern, said the CPA.

"This has become increasingly important as bio-medical interventions successfully prolong life expectancy and improve life quality.  Fundamental issues that relate to quality of life, the workplace, disease management, safety and prevention, etc. have become increasingly important," the PHASE manual introduction states.

Dr. Veilleux believes that PHASE will fill this void and will improve the quality of life for people living with HIV.

The CPA explained that although psychologists have always provided services to people with HIV; their family and friends; and other care givers, the most fundamental problem faced by Canadians wanting and needing psychological services are the impediments to access to these services.

The CPA expects the PHASE program to improve these situations by providing training on the psychology and mental health of those affected with HIV/AIDS to not only psychologists but allied service providers and care givers.

The PHASE program directly addresses the mental health of persons living with HIV, the manual states.  It includes topics such as anxiety; depression; counselling; psychotherapy; grief and loss; impact on care givers; psychological impact of HIV on family, friends and partners; psychological features of illness and recovery; substance use; mental illness; and neuropsychological consequences of HIV.

"Psychological services [in Canada] are provided only through public institutions, private insurance or through direct payment.  This problem has been exacerbated by the recent downsizing of public services and is very germane to people with HIV," stated the CPA.

Added Dr. Veilleux, "We also hope that PHASE will provide solutions and sensitize public policy makers to the accessibility dilemma."

This will bring psychological practice [in Canada] to the question of HIV for the first time.

  - CPA Executive Director Dr. John Service
The idea for a program to meet the mental health and support needs of people with HIV and their families and friends came out of a 1993 conference called New Beginnings and sponsored by Health Canada's AIDS Care, Treatment and Support Unit.  Following that conference the CPA and Health Canada began planning projects and initiatives under the National AIDS Strategy to increase the involvement of psychologists in HIV research and practice.

An "HIV Working Group" of 18 HIV-experienced psychologists from across Canada was formed within the CPA in 1995.  One year later, it had it became the National Psychology Expert Working Group in HIV and was composed of psychologists who were recognized as experts in the field of HIV research and/or practice.

The development of the program featured cross-Canada consultations with not only psychologists but service providers with AIDS Service Organizations and people with HIV.

An iterative process was used where the provisional training resources were repeatedly field tested in different areas of the country and improved in response to feedback.

"This will bring psychological practice [in Canada] to the question of HIV for the first time," stated CPA Executive Director Dr. John Service, who added that the program's content will be updated annually.

Dr. Jennifer Hendrick of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax thanked, among others, Robert Shearer of Health Canada and the American Psychological Association's HOPE program whose associates contributed the benefit of their experience.

AIDS service organizations and all people affected by HIV/AIDS are encouraged to make use of the new training modules.  They may be found online at