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This toolkit has been written mainly by people living with HIV for women living with HIV, along with close collaboration with healthcare professionals who have developed a parallel set of materials for themselves. Our combined aim is for the training materials to complement one another and reflect a shared ethos of mutual respect and support.
The principle behind this method of working is that we seek to produce a comprehensive set of materials that will enable and empower women living with HIV to live our lives to the fullest, and enable our healthcare professionals to support us in this as well as possible.
The toolkit consists of several hour-long sessions to be facilitated by a woman living openly with HIV wherever possible. Session participants are women also living with HIV who wish to learn more about how to live their lives to the full, despite having HIV.
The role of the health clinic and its staff in promoting the SHE programme and what it offers is crucial to its success
We suggest that the clinic head holds a meeting, or a series of meetings, with all the clinic workers together – health staff, secretaries, receptionists, cleaners, porters, etc. – so that everyone is aware of the programme and what it seeks to achieve. These meetings should of course include the peer support facilitator(s) who should introduce themselves alongside the clinic head.
Issues of particular concern to women living with HIV who may be interested in attending the peer support group include confidentiality about their HIV status, and privacy for the sessions. It would be especially good therefore to highlight these two points in this meeting. The meeting is also an opportunity to explain to all staff that the sessions will enable the health service to develop better quality of care, as the participants involved understand more about how to live life to the fullest. This should be a win-win situation for everyone!
The clinic head should either liaise with the facilitator directly on a weekly basis, or appoint a senior staff member to be the regular contact person in the clinic so that any questions, concerns or logistical issues can be dealt with promptly between sessions. Once the sessions have finished, a follow-up meeting should take place with all clinic staff and the facilitator, in order to share experiences about having the workshop sessions in the clinic.
If all has gone to plan, these toolkit sessions can be repeated for new women coming into the clinic. There will undoubtedly be lessons to learn from the first session. Bring all the clinic staff into the discussion to see if, and how, adjustments can be made to improve the experience for all concerned. This could be something small like bringing in a doctor to one or two particular sessions for a question and answer panel, or it could be something more serious like the cleaners feeling upset that the participants have left sticky notes and unwashed cups all around the meeting room. Everything needs agreement with all the clinic staff, so that everyone feels the benefit of this process together.
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