The Peer Navigator project that places HIV-positive peer workers in high-caseload Melbourne clinics is almost underway with the workers expected to start in June 2018.

The new Peer Navigators, Aashvin and Sarah, will join the peer support team and provide one-on-one support to newly diagnosed people living with HIV (PLHIV). The team encompasses the personal experience of living with HIV through various lenses that cross gender, sexuality and ethnicity.

Peer Support Manager Sara Graham is confident that expanding this area of service delivery is vital to the Victorian HIV response.

“Having access to someone who has the lived experience at such a crucial time in his or her HIV journey is invaluable,” said Graham. “This type of support has been proven to improve people’s knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their wellbeing and overall quality of life. These roles will also address the challenges around retaining people living with HIV in care and ensuring that they connect to various support services. “

Clinics participating in this project include Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Northside Clinic, Prahran Market Clinic, Alfred Health and Monash Health. PLHIV who wish to access this service can get a referral from one of the clinics or contact Living Positive Victoria.

 

Get to know a bit more about Aashvin and Sarah below:

What excites you most about this role?

Aashvin: Helping others recognise their own resilience when facing adversity, especially when they have gone through the same afflictions you have survived.

Sarah: The opportunity to work at a grassroots level and really implement the Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV (MIPA) principles. For this role to be viewed as vital in the care of people newly diagnosed, and people having issues with their diagnosis, speaks volumes to how far we have come! Truly nothing for us without us.

 

What do you hope the HIV response will look like in two years?

Aashvin:  I hope to see better involvement of people affected by HIV in the community and that those people realise their ability drive change in fighting stigma, social isolation and all that comes with living with HIV.

Sarah: I hope PLHIV will really take control of their health and wellbeing and feel free enough from stigma to do so. I know firsthand the power of peer support and I hope in the HIV response will look more like it did 30 years ago – a group of highly engaged community members driving the response.

 

What is the one thing you want people to know about you?

Aashvin: I am more outgoing than I lead on.

Sarah: I do have a serious side and have a lot of love and care for our community.

 

Just for fun…

 

Who is your go to band or song?

Aashvin: Destiny’s Child. No seriously, No, No, No Part 2 is an anthem in itself.

Sarah: At the moment I am listening to a playlist on YouTube called A Colour Show.

 

What makes you laugh the most?

Aashvin: Witty banter, dry humour and funny people.

Sarah: My dogs being cute and funny.

 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Aashvin: In a hill station in southern India. Preferably on a tea plantation.

Sarah: Anywhere by the ocean with mountains nearby. My husband and dogs and my bike will have to be there too.