Positive Life NSW Blog

HIV & the role of peers

Posted by on in Advocacy and Policy

The need to seek out others with HIV has long been considered an important part of Australia’s HIV community response.

Peer support and education provide a point of credible comparison, allowing people to compare themselves to others and gain valuable knowledge and insights into staying healthy and happy in the context of HIV.

Programs provide opportunities to build confidence, gain solutions to problems and develop a more pragmatic perspective about living with HIV and managing issues like disclosure and discrimination. Connection with other positive people is an important part of meeting need, feeling connected, validated and less isolated. However, it should be stressed that not all people with HIV will feel the need to access peers for support.

Since the mid-1980s, Positive Life and ACON have collaborated to develop and implement a range of peer support programs for those that need them. These programs have evolved and adapted to meet the changing information and social needs of people living with HIV. Structured programs such as Genesis for gay men newly diagnosed with HIV, and facilitated discussion groups such as 729 and After Hours, have catered for very specific information and support needs, while less formal social environments like Planet Positive have provided opportunities to build interaction and friendship networks.

Differences in the expectations of what peer support can deliver have made new program development challenging. While some people feel the need to access ongoing support, others only seek support after their diagnosis or when circumstances in life change. For instance, some people like to meet other people with HIV and gain perspectives/ideas and then go back to their own life and carry on – similar to the occasional ‘pit-stop’ analogy. For others, peer support programs offer a regular opportunity to diminish fear, maintain resilience and increase self-confidence. The role of peer support is often seen as an opportunity to ask questions, share experiences and find support outside one’s established networks. Facilitated peer support environments are sometimes the only place where people can openly discuss HIV without feeling anxious about their status.

The social inclusion of all people with HIV is a priority for Positive Life NSW, regardless of sexual orientation. Positive Life will soon launch a new peer support program to complement the services we currently provide to people with HIV in NSW. The Quarterly is an inclusive social event for all those living with HIV and significant others. It is an opportunity to get together with other positive people and partners and to celebrate life in a safe, accessible and friendly environment. It is also an opportunity to build and develop friendships and to share interests – whatever they may be.

Contact Positive Life NSW for more information on the Quarterly.

Also at http://www.gaynewsnetwork.com.au/viewpoint/hiv-the-role-of-peers-11895.html

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