Re:Assure women’s project remains London’s only tailored service for HIV positive women, who have experienced domestic abuse and are survivors of rape, and are all at an increased risk of poor mental health, co-morbidities, non-adherence to anti-retroviral medication and increased abuse.

The project aims to support women towards living fuller, healthier and happier lives and to increase their overall wellbeing. This is achieved via an early-action approach that helps us address a participant’s needs, and prevents challenges from mounting up and becoming unmanageable in the long term.

Re:Assure is managed by Positive East’s clinical psychologist Joanne McCarthy. Activities include:


  • Individual clinical psychology
  • Empowerment workshops
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Advocacy work


Over the next 12 months 100 women will be involved in our Re:Assure women’s project. 

Need for Re:Assure

Women are still treated as homogenous when it comes to HIV support and care. We have found that services continue to provide untailored support that doesn’t take into consideration the complexities of living with HIV as a woman with past and ongoing trauma.

Women living with HIV continue to face higher rates of domestic violence. The last major study on this found that HIV positive women have experienced domestic violence at rates nearly double those of HIV negative women, 52% and 27% respectively (BHIVA 2013; Office for National Statistics 2016). Lockdown has contributed to and accelerated IPV (intimate partner violence) – in May 2021 there was reported a 12% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases referred to victim support (UK Parliament Report, May 2021).

Research reveals a direct correlation between past abuse and higher rates of poor mental health, loneliness, and lower adherence to antiretroviral medication (WHO “Violence against women”, 2016; UN Women “Prevalence and new infections”, 2016). This is compounded by the day-to-day realities of being a female asylum seeker; a group who continue to experience higher rates of ongoing violence.

Generic support services remain inadequate when it comes to meeting specific needs of women living with HIV, including complex emotional and physical needs as a result of past and continued trauma. There remains a fundamental lack of understanding about how best to meet these complex needs and services remain untailored.

Re:Assure also encourages the women to advocate for themselves and seek more in depth knowledge about their care, so that they are able to raise questions themselves. Without the continuation of Re:Assure, the complex needs of HIV positive refugees or asylum seekers and HIV positive women who are survivors of domestic abuse will not be adequately met.

Covid continues to aggravate the already precarious situation for the women who routinely access Re:Assure. Women continue to report a larger deterioration in mental health as a result of the pandemic as well as increased levels of domestic abuse as highlighted above. Re:Assure is needed to help ensure that these women are given the support they need to overcome these additional barriers created by Covid. 

‘It was like a breath of fresh air after all the worry and stress since diagnosis’.

‘Leaving my house, coming to the group and meeting all the women made me feel normal again’.

‘The group gave me the strength to change many things in my life’.

Quotes from past Re:Assure attendees