Supporting more people to stay on HIV treatment, understand the condition, reduce loneliness and increase connections with others
Led by Positively UK, a national organisation that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV through tailored peer support, in partnership with Plus health, NAZ Project and Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.
Many people feel frightened and alone when they learn they have HIV. Ongoing HIV-related stigma can make seeking external support feel overwhelming. Having peer support accessible within the safe space of the clinic makes it easier for people to speak to someone who genuinely understands, from lived experience.
We deliver integrated peer support to the people who are living with HIV attending the Chelsea and Westminster HIV clinic. We work with those who are just diagnosed and having difficulty engaging in their care or treatment or have disengaged in their care and show them what it means to live well with HIV.
It is always a shock to learn you have HIV. It’s not easy to know what to do next. We’ve worked with Chelsea and Westminster to change the patient pathway so that as soon as someone is diagnosed, they automatically get to speak with someone who is living with HIV.
Integrating peer support at an early stage, when someone is just finding out, means immediately seeing and talking with someone who is living well with HIV and has been right where you are now. It changes your perspective.
The stigma associated with HIV can be a huge barrier. Having a peer support worker, someone who is living well with HIV, based within the HIV clinic making that initial contact, or visiting the inpatient ward takes the pressure off. That connection removes that sense of isolation and makes it easier to get a handle on what you need to do next – it’s a key way to ease the adjustment to diagnosis and treatment.