New help for HIV sufferers in West Sussex

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A WORTHING-based service has launched a support service for women and children living with HIV.

BME Community Services, based in Railway Approach, is a charitable organisation with the aim of addressing the gap in services for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The latest in a series of grants the charity has received is £9,500 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All scheme, which will pay for the new HIV service called the Sussex HIV Peer Access Support Service (SHIVPASS).

Chief executive Amina Chitembo said: “This funding is hugely important. HIV is a silent and stigmatised disease and people with it suffer in solitude.

“This money will pay for a women’s support project and a children’s advocacy project with four activity days each year for children.”

The Sussex HIV Peer Access Support Group will be a mainly referral-only service, for women and children of all nationalities.

The service includes one-to-one drop-in sessions offering emotional support and referral to other services, out-reach work and community cohesion activities.

The children’s project will exist to support the social well-being and needs of children affected by HIV, either directly or indirectly.

“This will be the first service of its kind in West Sussex provided outside of the health service,” said Amina.

“There is help available in Brighton, but for people who have little money or are greatly distressed, that can be a long way to go.

“When women are referred to us by the health service, we will arrange for them to attend the meetings, which will give them a chance to meet people in similar situations, discuss medication, food and lifestyle, and generally feel that they are not alone.”

Amina added: “While the level of HIV is low in West Sussex, for those people who do have the disease the service this funding will pay for is completely vital.”

For more information, visit www.bme-cs.org.uk or www.bmeeventswestsussex.org.uk