Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland:
During COVID-19, HIV Scotland set up a helpline and mini-site which gave those living with or affected by HIV the opportunity to access accurate and up to date information. These were felt to be incredibly successful, used by those in Scotland but also globally.
It was recognised that along with the needs for those living with HIV, there was also a lack of wellbeing services for them – this led to an HIV Scotland increasing their capacity for life coaching, whilst also adding therapy and counselling services. There’s been a steady increase in the access of these services, with things being adapted and changed based on feedback provided by users.
At the start of lockdown, it was recognised that those living with HIV, as well as others, may be feeling isolated, so a weekly online social was organised to bring people together for an opportunity to talk about their experiences and lives during lockdown. Initially, the online socials had a high uptake, which over time started to dwindle. As lockdown has eased, these socials have now been reverted to monthly.
As well as this, they worked with Jojo Sutherland to provide a series of Comedy Workshops to provide a fun activity and help build people’s confidence. The first block of Comedy Workshops went ahead on the week of 17th August, and the group engaging with it would be keen to perform when restrictions are eased further, with the likelihood to perform in a physical environment.
It’s important to note these services were targeted to reach those living with or affected by HIV, inclusive of the LGBT+ community. As contact had already been established with this audience, they were the core group that had access to such services.
This highlights the issue the LGBT communities are mutually affected by other matters, particularly concerning health. This poses the question of how these groups have been affected by COVID-19 – for example, what has it been like to be a gay man suffering from diabetes, or for a trans woman who’s also receiving treatment for hepatitis. Will those that may be required to shield be further isolated from support for that very reason?