Thursday, June 13th, 2019
ARE YOU 16-24 YEARS OLD?
LIVING WITH HIV?
FREE ON SATURDAY 29TH JUNE 2019?
JOIN US FOR A DAY OF THRILL AND LAUGHTER AT THORPE PARK!
You must register below and be able to get to London on the 19th June 2019.
Monday, May 13th, 2019
By Chris Buckley, Positively UK’s Peer Navigator based at Homerton Hospital
This is the question that anyone diagnosed with HIV at Homerton Hospital is asked. I work as a Peer Navigator at the Clifden Centre and having lived with HIV for 16 years I am well equipped to talk to patients about what it actually means to live with the virus. The news we can give to people with HIV today is incredibly positive. Our life expectancy is normal providing we adhere to our medication. The medication suppresses the virus to such a low level that it is no longer able to cause damage to our immune system. Furthermore, following many research projects looking at the effectiveness of the medication, we can unequivocally say that the virus can’t be passed on to our sexual partners when we are on effective treatment, even without the use of condoms. People diagnosed with HIV in the early years can hardly believe that we have come this far.
There are however downsides to a HIV diagnosis. There is still so much stigma associated with the virus and we still have a long way to go before this positive message becomes widespread knowledge within the public domain. As a peer navigator I work hard to spread this news both with the patients that I see but also in the wider community. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say “but why doesn’t everyone know this? This changes everything”.
There are two peer navigators based at the Clifden Centre and we work in partnership with the trust and the excellent HIV charity, Positively UK. In addition to providing one-to-one support around the diagnosis itself, we also encourage people to attend support groups with the various charities in and around London. We offer advocacy and deal with a wide range of issues to help people navigate though many different social issues such as housing, immigration, employment and welfare support. Many of our patients say they could not have dealt with these issues without our help and support.
Homerton hospital is one of the only HIV clinics in the country that has Peer Navigators at hand on a full time basis. The British HIV Association’s (BHIVA) guidelines state that 90% of HIV patients should be offered access to peer support. It has been well documented that peer support can have a profound effect on people’s HIV journey by helping patients to feel empowered and able to live well with the virus. We should all be very proud that Homerton is one of the trusts that is leading the way in the UK in HIV care. And next time you talk to someone about HIV, be sure to spread the fantastic news. People living with HIV on effective treatment are unable to pass the virus on.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
I’m in a hotel room in a new city, I’m here to deliver the Project 100 peer mentor training and its day two. I like the quiet in the mornings, away from my five-years old. I always end up reflecting on when I was a participant on the Project 100 training, how I was walking into the unknown, feeling nervous and excited.
I eat my breakfast and I think over the previous day, the participants, questions asked and the areas we might need to go back to. I reflect on the first training I delivered, over a year ago as a volunteer. I studied the training content over breakfast, to make sure that I wouldn’t forget anything. Now I can run through the day in my head. Day two is a content heavy day. We cover the science of HIV and treatment, we study complex case studies, talk about sharing our status and we share some personal experiences. I think these over, I think about which sections I will deliver and which my co-trainer will deliver.
Walking to the venue I take in the air, on day two I often forget to take a break outside, so I put on my happy music and enjoy the walk, even though its currently freezing!
I love to hear the chatter as all the participants arrive on day two. Before we start on day one its so quiet when nobody knows each other but today after only one day together, they greet each other like old friends.
We start with an icebreaker, everyone has a good laugh and gets settled for the day ahead. I recall the first time I delivered and wanted so much to do it perfectly (a throwback from my teaching days I’m sure) these days I’m more experienced, I can go with the flow.
I enjoy delivering the information heavy section on HIV, testing and treatment. I remember sitting in the group learning all this for the first time. I found it fascinating, I drank it in. The first couple of times I delivered this I felt flustered, that I would be picked apart if I made any mistakes. When in reality participants sit there just as engaged as I was, drinking in all the information. I explain things the way my trainer explained them to me, I add in some new analogies of my own. Its tiring but completely worth it.
My favourite bit to deliver is the final section of the day, sharing my window of the world with the room. Each time I review what has shaped my attitudes and values and how I see the world its like a mini therapy session. I share things with the group I’ve not shared with some of my closest friends. I find new links and I can explore my choices and actions more. After we have shared our windows the participants reflect on their own. The room is silent, very clam and everyone is engaged. Some people are visibly emotional, some are frantically writing, some choose to sit and reflect internally. Its moving for me to watch and be a part of.
We finish the day by sharing how it felt to explore and reflect on ourselves, in a way that some might not have before. I often am moved by what they say. I set the homework do something nice tonight, something that is especially for you. Then the day comes to an end. A few people come over to share how parts of my story so closely mirrored their own and they never thought it would. Some just want to talk about the emotions the final exercise brought up. I offer my time to everyone who needs it.
I tidy up and reflect on the day, I’m tired, mentally exhausted and looking forward to my dinner and a shower. Gone is the worry about having done a good job, I know that I did. The more trainings I’ve delivered the more I recognise I don’t need to be the perfect teacher. I’ve learnt from one of the quotes shared on the first day from Jane Fonda “The challenge is not to be perfect, it’s to be whole”. I delivered well and I’m looking forward to day three and to a restful evening. I’m going to take my own advice and do something nice, just for me.
Project 100 was set up to provide all people living with HIV access to peer support, wherever they live in the UK and at any point after diagnosis.
To date, more than 630 people have been trained as peer mentors through Project 100. The project has engaged over 40 clinics and HIV organisations across the nation, paving the way to embedded peer support in healthcare and support services.
The last core peer mentor training sessions for this training cycle will be held in April and May in London, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford. For more information or to book your place, please contact project100@positivelyuk.
12 – 14 April – Project 100 Core Peer Mentor Training, BHA Leeds Skyline
15, 16, 18 April – Project 100 Core Peer Mentor Training, Positively UK
26 – 28 April – Project 100 Core Peer Mentor Training, Oxford sexual health clinic
11 – 13 May – Project 100 Core Peer Mentor Training, George House Trust Manchester