While very much an upcoming health support strategy, peer support has been a mainstay of HIV care since the initial days of the epidemic, over 30 years ago. Faced with a climate of fear, ignorance and judgement about the condition, there were few places for people living with GRID (gay-related immune deficiency, as it was then) to get any kind of support. The gay community took up the challenge to look after its own when few others would, setting up organisations such as Body Positive and Terrence Higgins Trust to provide support and share what little information there was available.With few solutions to the myriad problems and opportunistic infections, medical staff tried to deal with symptoms and illnesses as they arose, while patients shared their difficulties, experiences and potential solutions (however unconventional) with each other.
As the epidemic grew and broadened, new peer-led organisations such as Positively Women, Mainliners, the AIDS Treatment Project and the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV (UKC) started providing targeted support. Shunned by wider society, turning to one another for help and support was the only realistic option and much of the focus of that support was to make those difficult last years of life more bearable. The main focus was to help people to step out of their isolation into a welcoming space where they could meet others who were going through the same difficulties. Read more . . .