Connection is vital

People with HIV do best when they are connected with peers and the positive community. You can encourage your patient to access support services, including peer support and health navigation, and the positive community when they are ready.

Peers are other people living with HIV. Not everyone can be a peer. Peers may have different experiences and personal demographics, but they have the skills to use personal experience to establish rapport and communicate effectively with other people living with HIV. For people newly diagnosed with HIV, their first contact with peers often includes employees and volunteers of organisations for PLHIV and communities living with HIV.

Positive community refers to the body of people living with HIV in Australia. It offers a way for people to share their experiences and hear about the experiences of others. It takes many different forms, including organisations, formal events, informal groups and networks, media outlets, etc. Connecting with positive community is important, as it provides your patient with many different opportunities to seek advice and support.

HIV Peer Support and Health Navigation

Peer services are available to provide invaluable psychological and social support to link someone who is newly diagnosed to navigating healthcare. Peer Health Navigators are people with HIV who have received training and appropriate supervision to provide emotional support, information and practical assistance with navigating the local health and service system.

A navigator is often one of the first people to sit down (or to have a telephone conversation, or a face-to-face video call) with a person who is newly diagnosed. They can take the time to step through the key messages, identify the person’s health needs and help them access local services and resources that can meet those needs.

Peer support workers often play a similar role, although they may be focused on providing emotional support and reducing social isolation for people with HIV.

The availability of navigators and peer support workers varies between states and territories. Calling the local HIV organisation will give you a good idea of what services and staff are available to provide support to your patient.