01:00PM, Saturday 30 March 2019
A Slough charity that has received a Louis Baylis donation of £1,000 has expressed how ‘grateful’ its service users are for such public support.
Thames Valley Positive Support (TVPS) is the only HIV charity in Berkshire and has centres in Slough and Reading - both of which have a higher than average prevalence of HIV than many major UK cities.
HIV is a virus that damages the cells in the immune system and weakens the ability to fight everyday infections and disease.
Established in 1985 the charity provides emotional and practical support to those living with, or affected by HIV and aims to increase the level of testing and awareness of the disease. - which is on the rise in Maiddnhead and Slough.
Chief executive officer, Sarah Macadam said: “The type of support we offer varies from person to person but can be from when they’re very first diagnosed or it can be further down the line.
“It can be anything, to meet other positive people, to access counselling or more practical support making sure they’re in appropriate accommodation and have enough food to live on.”
This particular donation is to enable the charity to continue offering twice weekly drop-in service.
The sessions provide an opportunity to socialise, receive support and eat a hot meal ‘which is a welcome treat for the many of our service users who struggle on low incomes or benefits’.
Talking about the charity, Sarah said: “It was started at the height of the AIDS epidemic by a tiny group of gay men in Windsor who were so scared to be out in the community they would meet in each others houses.”
This group of men had the disease at a time when it ‘it was much more obvious if you had HIV’.
“They met very secretly to support each other, and support each other to death basically” Sarah said.
She added: “But there’s lots of medication now so no-one should die of HIV prematurely.”
There ‘is no single group where HIV is more prevalent.’
Sarah said: “Now we have a very equal split between heterosexual and gay people and we’re seeing more hetrosexual people being diagnosed than gay people at the moment.”
Although medication to live with the condition has improved greatly since the 1980s, ’the one thing that hasn’t really changed is the stigma’.
Sarah said: “We’ve got just over 600 people who we support in total and we’ve got one who will speak out about their status without anonymity.”
“The saddest thing is the lack of education around HIV” she said. “No one’s got anything to fear by anyone who’s positive, not at all.”
Without local authority funding and in light of the stigma surrounding the disease, the positive impact the Louis Baylis Trust donation has on the charity is twofold.
Sarah said: “It’s massive actually. It helps us keep things like our service to introduce people who are positive to each other, and because it shows our service users that there is support in the community for them.
She added: “Even though they can’t speak up for themselves, they are so grateful.”
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