A peer is another word for a person who may have been through similar experiences to you and found themselves in similar situations to your own. Many people find that ‘peer support’ with another positive person is a real help in coping with HIV. Although peer support can be informal and happens amongst friends, it is sometimes organised more formally and in groups (see service finder and our page on advocacy). It can be part of a clinic or of the work of a support charity close to you .There are other options for support.
How can peer support be helpful?
People have found peer support helpful for the following reasons:
- Telling another positive person might be the first time you’ve met someone in a similar situation
- You’re able to share your experience with an equal in a way that values their friendship
- You will understand you’re not the only one with HIV
- Find others who can be a role model in some aspect of their life, like taking treatment or work
- You can learn self-confidence and self-awareness
- You can have social time without having to worry about who knows if you’re HIV positive
Where can you find peer support groups?
You will find peer support groups in –
- The Brownlee Centre, Glasgow
- Terrence Higgins Trust services in Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley, Glasgow, Grampian, Lanarkshire and Tayside
- Waverley Care, in Argyll & Bute, Edinburgh & Lothian, Fife, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Highland & Lanarkshire
- HIV-AIDS Carers & Family Service Provider Scotland, Glasgow based
Is peer support important?
Not everyone with HIV needs formal support of this kind, and many people prefer not to be part of a group. Individual peer support is also available. Many people move on from peer support or prefer to be part of mainstream social life. All of these choices are fine. The main thing is that if you become part of a group, it’s because you want to be. And if you feel it’s served its purpose for you, and you want to stop attending, then you can do so without pressure. HIV is not a ‘club’!
Find more information about support close to you in Service Finder or our page on advocacy.
What do service users say?
Some quotes from Waverley Care service users:
“When I am offering peer support I feel like I am giving something back, knowing I am helping others going through feelings of isolation, worry and loneliness. It is good to know a little of my time can help someone”
“I have come a long way since meeting other positive people and I am so glad I did as I feel I am part of a network of people living with HIV and who look at me as a true friend whom they can trust and give support back to them as they give to me”
“The social aspect of going out and meeting other men on a one to one basis has really helped me. It makes me feel 'normal' and that was a big relief....where the one thing that we shared wasn't an issue or could even be an issue with each other. I experienced a very relaxed, sensitive and safe environment”