A Quick Response Grant from Foundation North is helping Body Positive Inc. to support New Zealanders living with HIV.
Body Positive Inc. provides wraparound health and wellbeing services for HIV positive kiwis, while increasing awareness of HIV in the wider community and working to reduce stigma. Funding has enabled the appointment of a Health Navigator, whose work involves identifying the needs of people living with, or at risk of HIV, and helping them to access crucial services. With an organisational aim to ensure people are able to remain engaged in care, the Health Navigator’s role is to provide information and advocacy, and address the first three steps of the HIV Care Continium: diagnosis, linkage and retention in care.
Like many organisations over the past year, the work of Body Positive has been affected by COVID-19. With their services coming to a halt during lockdowns, sexual health testing levels have declined, and the group is concerned that people are no longer in the habit of getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The Health Navigator will play an important role in encouraging regular sexual health testing, as well as providing support and councelling services for those who may struggle to come to terms with their diagnosis. Over the past year, the group has seen an increase in requests for counselling and social connection due to the stressors raised through COVID-19, and the ongoing feelings of loneliness and isolation based on HIV status.
Warren Hatcher, Health Navigator at Body Positive says that with the added stress from COVID-19, their team are working with the HIV community to help reduce anxieties, and support those that are at risk of being missed by bigger organisations.
“In the last nine months we have been working with a small group of people from or returning to Northland, who have been displaced due to COVID-19 and other factors,” says Warren. “This support has included social connections, housing, employment, and engageent with medical providers for long-term health”.
Warren says that their services are underpinned by manaakitanga and whanaungatanga for those that may feel a disconnection due to their HIV status. “By doing this, we are able to achieve more for their whanaungatanga, wairuatanga and uara whaiaro. We are able to work in partnership with the community and provide protection where needed for them to be part of our multi-cultural society.”