Peer to Peer Support - Meet Johnny

Johnny was first referred to Positively UK in late 2015 when we he was 16 years old. Johnny is a Wandsworth resident and newly diagnosed HIV positive from his relationships with a partner 11 years his senior. He was diagnosed early with an undetectable viral load and good physical health. However, Johnny suffers from poor mental health, and as a result of his sexuality and HIV status has become estranged from his family.

Johnny was staying at his partner’s house, but at risk of being homeless. Johnny was referred to our youth worker by the Courtyard Clinic at St George’s Hospital. He met with Positively UK’s dedicated youth peer worker to discuss his new diagnosis. The youth worker was herself diagnosed at birth and has been living with HIV for 26 years. The worker was able to talk to Johnny and support him to come to terms with his HIV status. In her words HIV had been her “personal friend” now for 26 years, it was a condition that could be managed and was not a barrier to Johnny living his life and pursuing his ambitions.

The youth worker also worked with our in-house benefits adviser to secure Johnny a hardship grant from THT to support his immediate needs and apply for benefits to support him in the longer term.

Behind every HIV diagnosis there is a vulnerable individual...

Over the following months Johnny’s engagement with our peer worker was intermittent and he would often cancel appointments or simply not show up. The peer worker persisted and was able to make contact with Johnny again to find out he had overdosed on his HIV medications. Johnny then revealed that his relationships with his partner was often abusive, and he was missing support from his family. Our peer worker finally helped Johnny accept the need for further support with his mental health and he began sessions with a psychologist at his HIV clinic.
With Johnny’s agreement the peer worker then facilitated a meeting between him and his dad. Johnny’s dad was clearly struggling to come to terms with his HIV status and his knowledge was outdated believing that Johnny would become ill and die. Johnny was able to talk to his dad about HIV and his medications. His dad was also fascinated to meet someone who had lived with HIV for 26 years, understand the reality of HIV today and was glad to know Johnny had support from Positively UK.

The future looks brighter...

Johnny is now re-building his relationship with his mother and sister, supported by his dad. He is stable on his medication. His mental health has improved and as a result of accessing peer support he reported that his self-esteem has increased. As a result, Johnny has returned to college to complete his creative arts course, along with his English and maths A Levels. Johnny is still with his partner but stated he was planning to leave him soon.
It was agreed peer support had achieved what it could at this time. Johnny was told he could come back whenever. Also in line with our protocols a peer worker is due to make contact with Johnny again in November to follow-up, ascertain if his circumstances have changed, he needs any further support and find out if he is ready to engage in any further support such as our gay men’s group.