Living with HIV has changed over the past 3 – 4 years. With modern treatment and support, HIV positive people can lead healthy and active lives. Learning how to do this does not have to be overwhelming, and no one needs to be isolated or alone.
As part of my employment as the HIV Positive Peer Educator at the WA AIDS Council, I have been working over the past few months on putting together a new project that will enhance and support people with HIV in WA in 2018 and beyond.
The WA AIDS Council Peer Mentoring Service can provide the most current HIV information, answer questions, offer support and show how other people deal with HIV.
Peer Mentors are trained and educated on the current health issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, STI’s, self-care, disease progression, co-morbidities, HIV and aging and well-being. Through a series of supportive discussions, they use everyday language instead of jargon or medical terminology to make topics easier to understand.
The role of a Peer Mentor is to support a person with HIV to gain knowledge and develop HIV self-management strategies, providing the important information need to achieve goals while living with HIV.
Talking with someone who is living with HIV can reduce the stress and anxiety that some people experience and also reduce isolation. Having good mental health and social supports are important to keep HIV in check, improve emotional health in areas of self-esteem, depression, stigma and discrimination, battling isolation and building support networks.
Here in Western Australia, we are located in the largest state in Australia and the ability to reach out and work with people with HIV who are more rural and isolated is another aim of the Peer Mentors. Through the use of modern technology such as Skype the ability to keep people connected and supported will help to reduce that sense of isolation that can be detrimental to living positively.
A Peer Mentor is an HIV positive person who can assist other HIV positive people who are newly diagnosed or who are needing support from someone who is living with HIV to:
- Improve emotional health
- Understand current treatments and the role of treatments as prevention in the HIV lived experience
- Develop disclosure strategies for meeting personal challenges
- Navigate ‘well-being’.
The program is not limited to those who have been newly diagnosed but is also open to any person living with HIV who might want to address some of their health concerns. Peer Mentors can assist with support around changing medications, dealing with co-morbidities and the issues of ageing while living with HIV, maximizing quality of life and also to assist in connecting people with appropriate services.
On Tuesday 23 January I will be holding an information night for people with HIV here in Perth who might like to join the program.
If you would like to register your interest then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or