We are in a time when support services for those living with HIV are being cut. Councils around the UK have made cuts, or are planning cuts, leaving people living with HIV with little or no support especially at a time when coming to terms with a diagnosis.
The north east has had services cut, support services were limited and for some people not something they wanted to attend.
I was driven by my own determination to create a service that people would not only support, but attend. Without service users it isn’t anything. My earlier blog posts cover tHrIVe NE and what we have created. tHrIVe NE receives no regular funding. We are running currently on the money we raised at our launch night fundraiser.
tHrIVe NE has been up and running for 8 months. We’ve had 8 monthly meetings and every month I am humbled by more new people attending. In June, there was 16 of us around the room, July had 4 new people.
This is incredible. We have had gay, straight, bisexual and transgender people attend. People who have noticed us and come along.
The feedback we have had from new people is incredible. Someone who came along in May said the following:
“It is a marvellous feeling to meet a group of kindred spirits, with diversity, candour and camaraderie. To feel included is a very special feeling and Thrive is exactly that. An inspiring night. The present and future is bright.”
A new member who attending in July, feared we had a similar dynamic to sitting around in a circle, introducing ourselves and how long we were diagnosed. He was relieved to discover that we are absolutely not this at all. We are simply a group of people, living with HIV, sitting having a tea or coffee and a biscuit chatting about our latest escapades (in some cases they are really escapades), BUT and its a big BUT we are safe in the knowledge that we are surrounded by those who understand, they know what its like when you have HIV and the complications that this gives. We are safe in the knowledge that should you have a question, a burning anxiety about the virus, disclosure or anything else we have a range of experiences and backgrounds to get the support or answers required.
Cuts to services are crap. Absolutely. However, I hope that people can look at tHrIVe NE and realise that without government or local council funding a social support service can still be provided, can still be successful and will be used by those who need it.
I am so proud of what tHrIVe NE, the committee and those who attend have achieved in such a short space of time. It is something that is working and is very much appreciated by those who have attended and that means so much to me.