Positively UK has been working in partnership with Homerton University Hospital to provide peer support to people living with HIV in this high prevalence area.
Approximately 1,100 adults receive HIV care at the hospital. 75% of those receiving treatment are women and 75% from ethnic minority communities. Significant numbers are within the immigration system, compromising their eligibility for statutory support and increasing their vulnerability. Poverty, housing and food security are also common problems.
Positively UK and Homerton Hospital wanted to increase capacity to meet growing support needs by appointing ‘Peer Navigators’: patients trained and employed to provide peer support.
Three patients were trained and accredited, achieving an NVQ Level 2 in Peer Mentoring from the Open College Network. Supervision was provided by the clinic’s Social Care Co-ordinator and Positively UK’s Peer Case Worker.
Peer support was provided during all HIV clinics. Peer Navigators worked with patients to identify needs and priorities, set action plans, work towards agreed goals and undertake advocacy with support agencies.
The service was evaluated using an outcome star, with patients self-assessing at the beginning and end of the programme, as well as through regular reviews. Exit interviews with patients assessed to what extent needs had been met.
40 patients with high level needs were supported through 200 hours of one-to-one support and the project evaluation found the outcomes to be positive:
- there was a 70% increase in the uptake of services ranging from benefits advice to immigration and hardship support
- 76% of patients said they talked to others about HIV more and were more likely to disclose their HIV status
- 53% reported being in a better financial position
- one Peer Navigator has since gained further employment as a result of the project.
Overall, the project found that embedding peer support within the clinic is an effective way of skilling up patients and providing essential peer support, information and advocacy. Collaboration with the voluntary sector was crucial to the success of the project.