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Work Positive

woman at work

If you're living with HIV and are unemployed, apply to take part in our ‘Work Positive' Programme funded by Barclays Spectrum.

If you are unemployed our programme could help you to take positive steps back towards employment in a safe, supportive environment and in a way that suits you.

Applications are open from Saturday 1 July

Places are currently confirmed in London, Essex, Suffolk and Brighton for 2017.

If you live elsewhere in the UK, please email workpositive@tht.org.uk to check whether the programme could be made available in your area.

What will I gain from the Work Positive programme?

  • develop and renew skills for today’s workplace 
  • meet new people 
  • develop your confidence and self-esteem
  • overcome personal barriers to work
  • acquire recent work references
  • support to update your CV

What does the Work Positive programme offer?

  • up to six months part-time voluntary work experience at Terrence Higgins Trust or a variety of partner organisations
  • personal and professional development opportunities
  • confidence building workshops 
  • employment ready workshops
  • mentoring 
  • IT training
  • employment coaching 
  • travel and lunch expenses 
  • peer support
  • networking

If you would like to know more, please email workpositive@tht.org.uk. Ruth Burns will reply to your email, or alternatively leave a phone number if you’d prefer us to give you a call.

I’m interested! How do I get involved?

  1. Complete the Expression of Interest form and email it to us workpositive@tht.org.uk.
  2. Attend a one-to-one meeting with the project co-ordinator.
  3. Attend a two-day induction to familiarise yourself with the programme and your fellow participants.

Daniel, who recently took part in the programme, told us:

'Before starting on the Work Positive Programme, my confidence was taking a battering with every knock-back. But Terrence Higgins Trust saw my potential rather than the gaps in my CV. Within a couple of months I had a part-time role within the charity, which provided an excellent springboard back into the workplace. Just from getting the interview, my confidence has grown and grown.'

Ruth Burns, project co-ordinator says:

'Our Work Positive programme has really gone from strength to strength. Each year, we see the initial nerves fall away as our participants transform into polished, confident professionals who are a real asset to any workplace. We want this year’s scheme to be just as successful, and we encourage anyone with HIV who feels they need a boost onto the career ladder to get in touch.'

Read some of our success stories:


Adam BTW Adam was a member of the Armed Forces before being diagnosed with HIV and becoming ill. He spent two years at home recovering before going back to work. He realised that he could no longer do his job properly and was subsequently medically discharged. As Adam had never been out of work before, he found this particularly difficult.

Adam applied to the Back to Work Programme (the previous name of 'Work Positive' before 2014) in May 2013 as a way back into the workplace and to try to determine what type of career he wanted after the Armed Forces. He was placed within a small health promotion team in a local office.

Why did you want to take part in the Back to Work Programme?

It was not easy, but knowing that the charity was helping HIV positive people helped and I felt that people working at the charity would understand the stress, barriers and prejudice one can experience. I felt safe to go to Terrence Higgins Trust to try and build myself and my confidence up.

What did the charity do for you?

They built my confidence, they believed in me, they gave me an opportunity, they were there all the time. They changed my life, in turn they changed my family’s life, and they changed my community life. I cannot thank them enough.

What do you think might have happened had you not taken part in the Programme?

Seriously I don’t know. I would like to think I am a confident person but they came into my life when I was down and low. It felt like they did not give me a chance to lose myself in a process of rediscovering myself. They came just in time - I do not know even to this day what I would have done.

How has your life changed as a result of the Back to Work Programme?

I am a happy person, I am employed full time, my family is happy and I am enjoying life again. And on top of it all I am confident and responsible.


Daniel has been living with HIV for 20 years and has been unemployed for 17 after having a variety of jobs. His health has deteriorated significantly, he had a stroke and then contracted pneumonia in 2012.

Daniel was really worried about the large gap in his employment history now that he feels able to return to work.

Why did you want to take part in the Back to Work Programme?

Having been unemployed for 17 years and HIV positive for 20, I felt I needed help and advice on how to get back into the workplace.

As Terrence Higgins Trust is a charity helping those living with HIV, the Back to Work Programme seemed an appropriate and helpful start.

What did the charity do for you?

It has given me something to focus on, improved my confidence within a working environment and helped me to improve my computer skills.

What do you think might have happened had you not taken part in the Programme?

I think I would definitely be in the same position as I was before coming to Terrence Higgins Trust - no job and no future prospects of finding employment.

How has your life changed as a result of the Back to Work Programme?

Definitely my confidence. Close friends have noticed that since I have been with the charity I am a totally different person. I am more confident and more positively focused on getting back into the workplace.


Rachel was a secondary school teacher in her home country. She moved to London in 2006 to study accounting and finance.

Rachel was actively looking for a job after completing her undergraduate degree - she had attended quite a number of interviews but hadn’t been offered a job. She was caught in a catch 22 where she was unable to secure a lower skilled job because of her degree, but if she omitted it from her application, there was a huge gap.

She also tried to go back to teaching without any success. Rachel lost confidence in herself, attributing her lack of success to her personality and was on the verge of depression. She felt she was stuck with a qualification she couldn't use and began to see it as a major barrier to work as she had never struggled to get a job before her degree.

Why did you want to take part in the Back to Work Programme?

When I was pregnant with my second child in 2012, my specialist midwife referred me to Terrence Higgins Trust, which I had never heard of before despite having been diagnosed in 2002, and it was then that I saw the Programme advertised on the website.

I knew I had to get myself onto the programme as I felt that it held the key to the future of my career and it would be a good place to start, but I had to wait for the 2013 programme as I was pregnant at the time.

What did the charity do for you?

The charity helped me to overcome most of the barriers that I had faced in my search for a job. I had an opportunity to gain work experience which was related to my degree, which gave me the confidence to apply for jobs that I would never have dreamed of applying for before. Having been away from work for a few years, it was also an excellent opportunity for me to prepare myself for the work environment. I updated and further developed my skills and regained the confidence that I had lost as a result of the rejections that I kept getting.

In addition to getting moral support, I also got a lot of support with my CV, job applications and interview techniques.

Being in a team where my contributions were valued and in an environment where I wasn't stigmatised because of my HIV gave me a sense of belonging and self worth and was also very therapeutic. I also had a chance to reorganise myself, better manage my time as a working mum - particularly in the mornings - and prove that I am punctual, reliable and committed to my work.

Above all, Terrence Higgins Trust gave me new friends who I can relate to and talk openly to about my condition. Sometimes hearing about other people's experiences makes you realise that yourn problems are not as big as you think, because there are people who have gone through worse situations and survived. I firmly believe that I have grown both personally and professionally throughout my journey on the Back to Work Programme.

What do you think might have happened had you not taken part in the Programme?

I probably would have ended up working in a dead-end job which didn't utilise my qualifications, experience and skills. I would probably hate every moment of it and would be miserable and depressed. I would most likely be in a very poor mental state as well as in poor physical health with no motivation to get up for work every morning.

How has your life changed as a result of the Back to Work Programme?

According to my 14-year-old daughter, my eyes are brighter now and I am a happier person. I also believe that I am in a better frame of mind as I have fewer worries.

I am also sleeping a lot better as I have peace of mind and fewer financial worries. I have a job that I enjoy doing even though it's temporary and I am motivated to go to work in the morning. I am definitely looking forward to the future now.


Paul was diagnosed with HIV at 17 and due to ill health and emotional challenges, has been out of work ever since. At 42, Paul’s physical health had reached a stage where he felt able to return to employment. However he had a fear of the workplace, having not been in work for so long. He feared he wouldn’t be able to perform, that his computer skills were not good enough, that he wouldn’t be liked by his new colleagues and that he would not know how to work with others in a working environment. He also feared his HIV status and sexuality would be a barrier to returning to the work place.

Paul approached Terrence Higgins Trust in April 2013 and applied to the Back to Work Programme.

Why did you want to take part in the Back to Work Programme?

I was sick of my life heading nowhere and felt that Terrence Higgins Trust could possibly offer me a safe environment to get me going again. I saw a leaflet, while waiting in my clinic to have my bloods done, and jumped at the chance. I was bored, lonely, scared and confused and could not see a way back into work.

What did the charity do for you?

Terrence Higgins Trust offered me a place on its Back to Work Programme, which offers people living with HIV who are unemployed a structured, personal and professional development programme to help you back into the workplace.

It has been really tough but this process has taught me that I am a very reliable, confident employee. I have become totally reliable and have learned to take on responsibilities and problem solve.

I am now computer literate and am teaching myself new things every day. I have become a good self starter and a conscientious part of a team. I have learned how to deal with very stressful situations and become an organised and responsible person. Most of all I have learned that I am a likeable man with lots to offer in and out of the workplace.

What do you think might have happened had you not taken part in the Programme?

I would probably still be very low, lacking in confidence and bored.

How has your life changed as a result of the Back to Work Programme?

Nearly every aspect of my life has changed, mostly for the better. In general this has been one of my biggest experiences in the last 20 years. It seems silly I know, but life can get very small when you have lost your confidence.