Setting Up Your Project
Establishing networks in the community
Getting to know what other services exist for people living with HIV in your area is vital. Establishing strong networks with the right people is key to help you deliver your project by:
- Referring people living with HIV to your group/organisation for peer support
- Avoiding duplication of a service that already exists
- Increasing the potential to work in partnership to deliver your project
- Increasing the potential to use/share resources
- Widening your knowledge of the types of funding available
- Increasing the potential to work across sectors
There are the obvious organisations to consider for the development of your model. These will include:
Sexual Health and/or HIV clinics
If you are a clinic thinking of setting up peer support — click here
Sexual Health/HIV clinics are meeting with people both at the point of diagnosis, and at times offering ongoing care. Many clinics acknowledge the value of peer support and how it can be beneficial in helping reinforce health messages, increase adherence and help patients better understand their condition by talking to someone else experiencing the same or similar issues as them. Clinics are well placed to refer patients on to organisations offering peer support, or to work in partnership to develop peer support within the clinic, if the space and resource allows.
GPs will also be seeing people living with HIV and are also well placed to refer patients into peer support. Social Prescribing is now becoming a part of many GP practices across the UK and recognises that social as well as medical aspects of long term conditions. It can be challenging and time consuming to cover all GP surgeries in a locality to promote peer support and to talk to staff about referring in to peer support. However, connecting with local GP surgeries, finding out whether they have Community and/or Health Navigators and promoting your project could lead to more referrals and more patients benefitting from peer support.
National HIV Organisations
It is useful to know what national HIV organisations exist, and the kind of work they do. Some will focus on service delivery and support, others will have a campaigning and advocacy mandate. There may be national organisations with a presence in your area that it will be worth contacting. National organisations may have access to information and resources, and if they are involved in service delivery, could be a referral pathway or potential partner.
Local HIV Organistations
Local organisations supporting people living with HIV can vary from small to medium sized charities, to informal groups. It is useful to know if any exist, who they are and what they offer. There may be the potential to work together and share resources in order to deliver a peer support project, and to promote your project through them.
Other Related Organisations
It is worth finding out what other organisations are in your area providing services that may be attracting people who are living with HIV. For people who are not open about their HIV status and who are concerned about disclosure, accessing HIV care and support directly can be difficult. However, they may be accessing other support such as mental health, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol or housing services and not be aware of the potential to access peer support. Regardless of whether or not HIV services exist in your area, increasing your profile among other local organisations is beneficial for your project and increases the potential to reach the people who would benefit from peer support. It also helps to raise awareness of HIV and educate the wider community on the issues for HIV today.
Other Organisations offering Peer Support
Peer support is valuable for people living with many different mental and physical health conditions. There is a long tradition of formal and informal peer support in mental health and peer support projects are becoming recognised in more services as a way of offering people the opportunity to get support from people with lived experience. There is a real benefit to your project in seeking out other organisations or groups in your area who offer peer support. The projects that you feel have a model you would like to learn from, or whose practice you respect and who are helpful can be a real support and mine of information for you while you are setting up your project. In some areas there are peer support networks where different organisations come together to share good practice, ideas and training. This can be a great asset for you and your project.
Knowing your way around the commissioning framework in your area, and who is responsible for commissioning services that your project may fall under is important. Knowing who key contacts are, and making sure they know about your peer support project may help with funding, and will put you on the radar. It is also important to know what funding is available. The funding landscape is tough, and there are many charities, social enterprises and community groups battling over an ever-decreasing pot of funding. Knowing what is out there, whether your project fits the criteria for funding, when deadlines are etc., will be key for the sustainability of your project.