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Waverley Care

Claire Gilfillan recently met with Nichola Frith, Children and Families Project Manager, and Alison Irving, Communications Co-ordinator, from Waverley Care to discuss the work they do supporting people living with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Claire Gilfillan, Web Content Editor, GTC Scotland

I recently met with Nichola Frith, Children and Families Project Manager, and Alison Irving, Communications Co-ordinator, from Waverley Care to discuss the work they do supporting people living with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Waverley Care was first set up in 1989 as an Aids Hospice for those living in Edinburgh. The charity has evolved over the years and now works at a community level to educate, nurture, challenge stigma and build confidence. Waverley Care initially provided services solely in Edinburgh, but has now expanded to support people across Scotland from bases in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Fife.

The work they do

Due to the stigma attached to HIV and other blood borne viruses, many people do not feel safe accessing mainstream services. Waverley Care offers a wide range of services to people of all ages, including:
  • Physical health
    • Providing people living with a blood borne virus with the everyday skills and techniques with which to manage their physical, mental and emotional health
    • The residential unit at Waverley Care aims to reduce the likelihood of people being admitted to hospital
    • Increasing fitness levels by encouraging people to live healthy lives
    • Preventing mother to baby transmission by giving mothers with HIV access to free formula
  • Emotional wellbeing
    • Volunteers working with service users to give them the chance to talk to someone who has first-hand experience
    • Giving children who themselves have HIV or who are living with families affected by HIV or Hepatitis C the opportunity to meet others in a similar situation
    • Using the arts as a focus, this gives people the chance to learn new skills and explore creativity as a way of expressing emotion
  • Spiritual support
    • People living with a chronic condition often want to explore issues of faith and spirituality including end-of-life care
  • Practical help
    • There are close links between poverty and HIV or Hepatitis C. Waverley Care offers advice on maximising income and assists individuals with applications for housing and the benefit system
    • Supporting asylum seekers with immigration issues
    • Supporting service users who are keen on returning to employment but lack the confidence and skills to seek it
  • Preventing onward transmission
    • Formalised education and training for those at risk of Hepatitis C and for volunteers or professionals working with high-risk groups
    • Practical prevention by offering free condoms
    • Distribution of information and condoms in a wide variety of settings within the African community, where there may be a reluctance to attend sexual health clinics as a result of stigma
    • Encouraging people who may be at risk to get tested. Waverley Care offers testing facilities
  • Challenging stigma
    • Waverley Care challenges stigma through campaigning. The Always Hear campaign is funded by the Scottish Government and works on the basis that the best way to understand what it is like to live with HIV in Scotland is to hear from the people who live with it every day
    • The #laffoffstigma campaign encourages visitors to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to think about HIV and Hepatitis C stigma and to challenge it.

Children and families

Waverley Care’s Children and Families project supports young people and their families who are affected by HIV or Hepatitis C in Edinburgh and the Lothians. The Charity also provides support to HIV positive young people through their Scotland wide service – Poz Youth. The charity has been working with families since 1991 and offers a wide range of support which includes weekly group support for children and young people (incorporating arts workshops, issue based work, regular outings and outdoor pursuits), school holiday programmes and four residential holiday breaks each year. Families are also supported though outreach, and individual support is provided for children and young people around topics such as taking medication on a daily basis and developing coping strategies for living with a long term chronic condition.

Many people have lost loved ones to HIV or Hepatitis C and Waverley Care works through issues of loss and bereavement with families, encouraging them to think about how it affects the family and how the family can best cope and come to terms with the very sensitive issues surrounding bereavement and a blood borne virus.

At Waverley Care children and young people have a safe, confidential, and stigma free space that they can go to and talk about how they feel about their own, or their family member’s HIV or Hepatitis C status. Developing friendships, gaining peer support and just having fun are amongst the benefits for children taking part in the project. A wide range of creative and educational activities build confidence and self-esteem, and facilitate important life skills.

In 2012, the Children and Families Project won the Scottish Social Services Council’s Care Accolade in the Children and Young People’s category.

Always Hear

Waverley Care recently worked in partnership with Education Scotland to produce a Curriculum for Excellence resource pack. The pack includes:
  • A DVD of four films telling the stories of people living with HIV
  • ‘About HIV’ information sheets
  • Health and Wellbeing lesson plans
  • Handouts for students – five people’s stories of living with HIV
  • An evaluation form to track students’ knowledge and attitude changes
A pack was sent to every secondary school in Scotland in 2013. The pack was also promoted in youth groups around the country. The aim of the resource pack is to make voices heard, dispel myths around HIV and challenge stigma by giving young people the facts.
To find out more about this resource, please visit: http://www.hivalwayshear.org/

How you can help

People living with HIV or Hepatitis C are described by The Scottish Government as “the most vulnerable members of our society”. The viruses have a devastating impact, both at the point of diagnosis and in day-to-day life. Stigma has been an issue for people living with HIV from the earliest infections in the late 1980s, which is why services like Waverley Care are so important.

Waverley Care gives people the opportunity to meet others in a similar situation and provide support to each other. It also gives parents the necessary advice and support they need when talking to their children who are themselves infected or dealing with a close family member who is. Living with HIV can have an effect on all aspects of a person’s life, from behavioural problems and truancy in school to employment issues and discrimination in the work place. The fear of people finding out can trap adults and children in isolation, with a detrimental effect on self-esteem and mental health.

By supporting Waverley Care you can help them to change people’s lives for the better.

For more information on Waverley Care and its services, please visit http://www.waverleycare.org/.

If you would like further information on Waverley Care’s Children and Families work, you can contact Nichola or Lynne on 0131 558 1425.