Enjoying a nice quiet weekend after a busy-bee week. Sometimes you just need to sit down and chill, relax with a takeaway and watch trashy TV.
I’ve been in London attending (and speaking at!) the BHIVA Autumn Conference – it was the first I’ve been to and I found it interesting even if a lot of the ‘news’ has been well documented already this year.
I’m biased but the Community Symposium I was presenting in was a fantastic session – focusing on the importance of peer support; it was a reminder that people living with HIV must be provided with opportunities to speak to others with the condition and that it can make such a difference, constituting towards a significant aspect of their care.
It’s easy to listen to a doctor or consultant tell you everything will be okay and you’ll be fine - and ignore them. You can still ignore people in the same boat but it’s harder to do so when you’re having a conversation with someone who has walked in your shoes, someone who has been on the same path and travelled a similar journey.
Support isn’t just about the bad times or exploring negative situations. Sharing achievements with people who understand their meaning and significance is a fantastic way to feel good about yourself. Finding out you have attained ‘un-detectability’ for example is something that you can explain to anyone, but only those living with the virus will value how amazing that milestone can make you feel.
Next Saturday marks the start of National HIV Testing Week; the latest statistics show an increase in the number of people in the UK receiving an HIV diagnosis, largely thanks to an increase in the awareness of the importance of testing in high risk groups.
Peer support is going to be essential for these people in the next few years, not simply in how they handle their HIV status but because of the dramatic changes the NHS will face due to the current Governments health policies. More than ever people living with HIV are going to have to rely on each other. Peer support isn’t just going to be important, it’s going to be essential.
This article first appeared in Alex’s own blog HIV & Me here.