How can healthcare workers better support people living with HIV?
Healthcare workers play an important role in looking after the health of people living with HIV. For people to get the care they need, they have to feel comfortable talking to their healthcare worker about their health.
Healthcare workers should:
1. provide everyone with equal care
2. listen carefully without judgement and respect people's confidentiality
3. give people as much time as they need to talk, without feeling rushed
4. provide answers that are clear, positive and give hope
5. explain things clearly so that people can understand and make decisions about their health
6. behave appropriately. There should be no gossiping, insulting or flirting.
When people get this positive kind of treatment, they're more likely to speak to healthcare workers and take better care of their health.
What are the benefits of peer suppport?
Peer support has been shown to have many benefits for people living with HIV, including helping them to:
1. reduce mental and physical ill health
2. adhere to treatment and better understand HIV
3. feel more supported and less lonely
4. have better experiences of healthcare
5. gain confidence and feel more in control of their health
6. go back to work or education.
People will need different types of support at different times. Peer support can be really useful when people are just diagnosed, starting or switching treatment, dealing with illness, relationship changes or other life challenges, or when they are moving from paediatric to adult care.
What are the effects of stigma?
From the point of view of people living with HIV, stigma or the fear of it can sometimes be the worst thing about being diagnosed. Stigma affects people in different ways, but for some it can impact on their mental health, their relationships and even make them think differently about their future. HIV stigma is commonly based on misinformation and is always wrong, yet for some people living with HIV it can have a big impact.
From a healthcare perspective, HIV stigma can make it harder to engage people in treatment and care. Fear of stigma often makes people more afraid to test for HIV. It can also make people less likely to share their status and adhere to treatment. All of these factors can lead to more new infections and poorer health for people living with HIV.
Similarly, people who face other types of stigma and discrimination can be more at risk of getting HIV. This can apply to lots of people in society, including young people, people who are transgender, sex workers or men who have sex with men. Where people face discrimination or sexual stigma, being able to talk to healthcare workers and access support around their sexual health can also be more challenging.
It's important for everyone's health that we address all types of stigma. We can do this by educating people, changing discriminatory laws and protecting and empowering those who are living with HIV or who face other types of discrimination.