HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has launched an exciting new addition to its award-winning myHIV website, which will offer real-time online peer support to people with HIV who may be struggling with the condition.
The charity has recruited and trained a diverse team of volunteers living with HIV from across England, Scotland and Wales. Every evening with the exception of Saturdays, volunteers will be logged in to the myHIV Community Forums, where they will be available to chat with users, answer questions, and provide confidential one-on-one support. If users have more specific questions around issues such as benefits and housing, volunteers will refer them on to further sources of advice.
The peer support team includes individuals between the ages of 27 and 60, and from a range of ethnicities and sexualities. Gay men and African communities, the two groups most affected by HIV in the UK, are represented strongly. Terrence Higgins Trust has provided OCN-accredited training to all volunteers, as well as a City & Guilds qualification in Understanding HIV and Sexual Health.
Garry Brough, Membership Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “One in ten people with diagnosed HIV in the UK are now signed up to myHIV, making it the country’s largest network of people with the condition. Ever since the site launched, we’ve seen people on the forums sharing advice and reaching out to each other. This kind of peer support is especially invaluable for those who are newly diagnosed, who may still be struggling to confide in family or friends. We’re keen to build on this aspect of the site, and the launch of our peer support volunteers is an important next step.”
One user of the myHIV forums said: “When I was diagnosed with HIV, I took it like a sentence. I was devastated and felt completely lost. I posted a message out of desperation on the forums, and received messages of support from complete strangers. Those messages have been invaluable. They didn’t sink in straight away because of the state of shock I was in, but they soon started to make perfect sense.”
myHIV is co-funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and money raised through Terrence Higgins Trust’s annual Walk For Life. Over 7,500 members have signed up to the website since its launch in January 2011. For more information, or to register, please visit www.myHIV.org.uk.