It’s not just Santa’s elves who’ll be busy this Christmas
Once again the myHIV online peer support volunteers are donning their Santa hats this Christmas to talk to members of Terrence Higgins Trust’s myHIV community forums.
Six nights a week, every week of the year, our volunteers log on to our forums and use their own experiences to support people with their own questions and problems. And this Christmas we’ll be there to speak to people over the holiday period, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and into the New Year.
This time of year can be reflective or difficult for people living with HIV. Many are on their own, while others are spending it with friends or families who do not know about their HIV status.
I still remember my first ‘HIV’ Christmas; I’d just started taking HIV medication and spent each night at my parents hiding in my bedroom trying to open three bottles of pills in silence, and hoping they wouldn’t notice my reminder alarm going off at 10pm each night.
In a recent survey of forum members, 66 per cent said that access to online peer support and volunteers with lived experience of HIV had reduced feelings of social isolation, while 57 per cent agreed the service had reduced feelings of loneliness.
I’m tremendously proud of the team; they’re some of the most committed volunteers I’ve come across since joining Terrence Higgins Trust in the summer of 2015.
We’ve had plenty of highlights this year. Since April the volunteers have provided over 420 hours of support during which they had an incredible 578 different conversations with our members. We were thrilled to be part of Positively UK’s Project 100 peer mentor programme and I’m excited to grow our relationship with them and other organisations in 2017.
I’ve been proud to watch each and every one of the volunteers develop and swell in confidence. Many are involved in other HIV organisations across the UK and have spoken to audiences this year about their own journeys with HIV, tackling stigma head-on and breaking down myths about the virus.
Most of all I am heartened by the amazing feedback the team has received from our members, so I’ll leave the last word to one of them: ‘Thank you Terrence Higgins Trust – all the volunteers and those who chat in the forums. In the last 12 days of turmoil access to online support and volunteers has been an absolute lifeline’ – ‘Nick’ (myHIV member since November 2016).
Join myHIV today. For details about when our volunteers will be available to talk to, please log into the community forums.
Alex Sparrowhawk is Membership and Involvement Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust.