The 2019 annual report published by Positive Life has shown that 11 new families have reached out to the HIV support charity for help for the first time in the past year.
This means that 33 new children under the age of 12, living with or affected by HIV, are now accessing support services under the ‘+Family Life’ programme in Northern Ireland.
Positive Life is the only dedicated HIV support charity in Northern Ireland.
Funded by the Big Lottery Community Fund, the aim of the ‘+Family Life’ initiative by Positive Life is to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of children under 12 living with or affected by HIV to help them cope with the impact of this long-term condition.
The project includes one to one and peer group support, individual & family counselling, child & family focused activities such as art therapy, family fun days, residentials and complementary therapies along with practical advice on matters such as budgeting and finance.
Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive of Positive Life commented:
“The impact of a HIV diagnosis in the family of a young child can have a crippling impact as they move through their teenage years and onto early adulthood. Often these children are subject to significant levels of stigma from such an early age that levels of self-esteem are so low that they become isolated from society and mental health issues can develop.”
“At Positive Life it is our job to help them and their families cope with the situation and barriers that they are likely to meet and prepare them as best we can on how they deal with having or being affected by HIV as they grow up.”
“The impact that HIV can have on families is immense as it places strain on relationships and the bond between parents and their children. We have been working hard to create a level of awareness around our services that allows anyone who has HIV or at risk to come and seek support before it’s too late.”
“These may not seem like big numbers to many, but it’s the lives of thirty-three children and only in the past year. We reckon there are many more families out there that are, as yet, too afraid to come forward. No child or family that has been touched by HIV should have to live their lives in the shadows or feel that they can’t have a fulfilling family life.”
The Positive Life Annual Report 2019 also highlighted that the charity also assisted with:
• 2,694 psychosocial interventions with support workers
• 384 helpline sessions
• 150 advice sessions around benefits, housing, debt, welfare reform and employment issues
• 39 people newly diagnosed or have reached out for first time to Positive Life
Approximately 100 new cases of HIV are diagnosed every year in Northern Ireland and the numbers of new diagnoses continue to rise, unlike the rest of the UK where they are falling.
Positive Life support services includes Counselling, Complementary Therapies, Social Events, Family Support along with Rapid HIV Testing. In many cases, Positive Life offers the only real and meaningful contact that those living with HIV have due to the overwhelming impact of the stigma around the condition here in Northern Ireland.