An online live chat service for people living with, or affected by HIV, has been launched by Solent NHS Trust, providers of sexual health services in Hampshire.
HIV Live Chat, funded by Public Health England and accessible at www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk/livechat is believed to be one of its kind in England, allowing users to talk directly online, with a HIV clinical specialist. The user, be they someone diagnosed as HIV positive or affected by someone with the virus, is given appropriate and confidential clinical guidance, counselling and signposting over the course of the chat.
“We are piloting this online secure chat facility to enable individuals, who are struggling to come to us due to any reasons such as distance from a sexual health clinic, stigma or fear, to receive essential service support – from the comfort and security of their home using a mobile phone or computer,” said Debbie Zimmerman, Head of Solent NHS Trust’s Sexual Health Services.
With an estimated 1 in 4 people believed to be living with undiagnosed HIV, it’s more important than ever to provide increased access. The fight against HIV has been hampered by late diagnoses and the reluctance to come forward to get tested or even talk about HIV, due to perceived stigma.
“For many communities, even talking about HIV can be very difficult. Stigma still acts as a barrier and this is something we are working to break down by continuing to enhance our digital offering,” added Debbie.
She emphasized the online facility has not been developed to replace existing services but to provide an alternative safe platform. HIV Live Chat enhances other existing online services offered by Sexual Health Services, including online tests for STIs and HIV and access to condoms through the ‘condoms by post’ service.
“We want people to feel at ease however they choose to access our sexual health services. We recognise that for some, this means first talking to us about their HIV worries in a way that they feel comfortable, and for others it may just mean that they don’t need to walk into a clinic.”
The service is working in partnership with Positive Action, a HIV charity working across Hampshire that has extensive experience of the needs and concerns of people living with HIV after providing specialist services since 1995. Ends
For more information please contact the Solent NHS Communications Team on 0300 123 4156 or email email@example.com
Notes for Editors:
Solent NHS Trust was created on 1 April 2011 and specializes in providing high quality community and mental health services. We currently operate out of more than 120 sites across Southampton, Portsmouth and Hampshire.