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The Czech AIDS Help Society, Czech Republic

The Czech AIDS Help Society was one of the Positive Action Europe grantees 2015.

Summary of project

What is the project about?

This project aimed to develop new services that put people living with HIV at the heart of the service, promote peer support, education and treatment literacy. 

The project included several activities:

  • A guidebook for newly diagnosed patients
  • A peer to peer support or ‘buddy’ service for people living with HIV
  • A peer support programme - Sdílna+ (Family Plus) for the partners, families and friends of PLHIV
  • A treatment literacy programme

Why was the project developed and what does it involve?

Traditional state-supported programmes focus on HIV prevention, medical services and treatment. The new programmes, however go beyond treatment and provide much needed psychological support and also improve treatment literacy, which leads to better retention in care and helps PLHIV lead normal lives.   This project is unique as PLHIV, volunteers who have been trained deliver and are also the recipients of the service. This is important as it enables PLHIV to discuss HIV openly, in a non-threatening and non-judgemental environment.

People who have been recently diagnosed with HIV face many challenges and the activities developed aimed to address some of these challenges.  The guidebook which was written by PLHIV and includes examples of situations PLHIV have faced, was developed to reduce the initial anxiety of people who are newly diagnosed, and help them cope with and accept the diagnosis.  The guidebook had a Q&A section which provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by newly diagnosed people about living with HIV.

The peer-to-peer service ’Buddies’ is provided by a network of volunteers, PLHIV. It was developed to help address some of the concerns that people who have been recently diagnosed with HIV have, by providing them with support from PLHIV.  Volunteers, who are trained and have been living with HIV for at least two years, provide support to a person of the same gender and similar age.  The peer to peer service helps newly diagnosed PLHIV accept their diagnosis and provides an opportunity to discuss their experiences, exchange information and help improve their self-esteem.  PLHIV participating in the ’Buddies’ service can also take part in quarterly group meetings for newly diagnosed patients.

Partners, families and friends can find it difficult to accept that someone they love has been diagnosed with HIV, and many PLHIV do not disclose their diagnosis to their families and friends.  The Sdílna+ (Family Plus) service, a peer-to-peer service is similar to the ‘Buddies’ programme, but is aimed at partners, families and friends. 

Apart from ad hoc leaflets on selected treatment related topics, there was no comprehensive publication on treatment literacy for PLHIV in the Czech Republic.  The treatment literacy programme involved developing a brochure based on the UK HIV i-base booklet ‘Introduction to combination therapy’, which was translated and adapted to reflect Czech treatment guidelines. 

How has the project helped people living with HIV in the Czech Republic?

The treatment guidebook is the first of its kind for PLHIV in the Czech Republic.  It will be printed by the end of 2016, and will be distributed to PLHIV through the national HIV Centres network.  The peer programmes are aimed at not only PLHIV, but also their families, who often need support.  There has been a great uptake of both peer programmes and both have been welcomed by PLHIV and those affected by it.