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A beacon of hope for families living with HIV

1 December 2015

Paula Evenden is manager of the Women and Families Service at The Sussex Beacon, a specialist HIV charity which helps people living with HIV to live healthy, independent lives.

Today, World AIDS Day, Paula tells us about her work and the difference the lottery funded service makes.

Paula-Evenden,-manager-of-positive-health-for-women-project-in-Brighton“I have been working in the HIV sector for over 10 years and have had the privilege of managing The Women and Families Service for the last seven years.

The Big Lottery Fund awarded us £478,529 over five years in 2011 for The Positive Health for Women project. The funding has enabled us to work with over 300 women and their families living and affected by HIV across Sussex.

Our Service is the only dedicated Women and Families service across the county and provides psychological and practical support through 1-1, peer support groups, courses and training.

Globally women make over half of HIV infections, with 34,400 women across the UK living with HIV.

Women are more vulnerable to HIV through sexual inequalities and violence and we see through our work how stigma can impact greatly on a women’s choices”.

“One woman we’ve worked with is Yinka. She had been diagnosed with HIV on finding out she was pregnant. Now in her 40’s, she was struggling to cope; she hadn’t been taking her HIV medication regularly and was feeling suicidal. Yinka was in a violent relationship, she had poor spoken English and was completely dependent on her husband.

“Hattie, our Project Worker, provided Yinka with practical and psychological support and supported her move to a women’s refuge. In a safe space and with Hattie’s help, Yinka was linked to a HIV community nurse, a social worker and housing support.

“A short admission to our inpatient unit helped Yinka learn to manage her HIV medication. On discharge she was moved to temporary accommodation and started to rebuild her life and her health. Yinka joined our women’s group, accessed our health workshops and took English lessons.

Yinka told us – “I feel a different person to be honest. I never thought in my whole life to be able to look after myself and do things by myself, go to the bank, to college, do volunteer work by myself and here I am doing it.”

“The future of services rely on women living with HIV to inform the kind of services they need for the future and at The Sussex Beacon we are passionate about making sure this happen.

We see more challenges today than ever. Poverty, mental health, treatment choices, family relationships, violence and continued inequalities in society make this challenging, but I know through the amazingly strong, beautiful, sensitive, spiritual, resilient women we work with, like Yinka, how being brave, engaging with each other and supporting services can allow them to fly.”

You can find out more about the services that Sussex Beacon offers, you can visit their website or follow @sussexbeacon on Twitter.




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