An Ecological Understanding of HIV
Practice in South Africa
As would be clear from the preceding chapter outlining the overarching theory to ecosystems thinking, the ecosystems perspective or ecological approach emphasizes the connections among individuals and their environment at various systems levels. This approach entails a primary assumption that a client cannot be understood without taking into account the quality of life within and among the community of systems of which the client is part.
Greene (1999, p.259) expresses the core ideas about the ecological approach in social work:
The ecological perspective is a social work practice approach that draws on a
multi-faceted conceptual base that addresses the complex transactions
between people and their environments. A broad framework that synthesizes
ideas from a number of human behaviour and social work practice theories,
the ecological perspective offers a rich, eclectic social work knowledge and
From this description of the ecological approach, an ecological understanding of HIV practice will be explored.
The ecological perspective provides a context for a social work assessment process in which the practitioner defines the various components of the client's life situation. Any given client's situation is therefore explored within the broad context of all the identified social systems when the social worker moves from system to system, conducting an exploration of the client's social functioning within his or her environment. With this understanding, this chapter follows a