Project on Peer Counselors, “EVA Caring”

The purpose is to train peer consultants to specialize in supporting women living with HIV. Uniquely, the peer consultant has personal knowledge as a person…

The purpose is to train peer consultants to specialize in supporting women living with HIV. Uniquely, the peer consultant has personal knowledge as a person living with HIV and has the first hand experience accepting an HIV diagnosis, giving birth to children and parenting.
 
A competitive selection has chosen a total of 9 peer consultants, 7 women and 2 men. All peer consultants have undergone a 3 month training including information about HIV counseling and services for women.
 
After relationships were established between peer consultants and clients, women were linked to regional family centers of social assistance.
 
The “EVA Caring” project covered 8 districts and 9 offices.
 
Who are the peer counselors and what have they done during the project ?
 
· A person living with HIV, already accepted their diagnosis and has been trained as a peer consultant.
 
· The consultant has the opportunity to exemplify their personal experience through mentorship and develop skills to organizes referrals to specialists.
 
· Peer counselors are able to provide information about appropriate services and activities available for people living with HIV.
 
The following is a commentary from a peer consultant, Yaroslava Medvedeva:
 
For me, the experience from the project “Caring EVA” was new and very interesting. I got into an unusual team for me consisting of different people, each of whom put their whole hearts into their work. Although at first it was scary, now I understand how useful it is.
 
Now I understand the important of a peer counselor at Family Centers. The personal experience of a peer consultant provides the client a sense of security. I am very satisfied with the work of the project. During the implementation, the Centre’s staff began to understand the important contribution of the peer counselor to the overall work. I began to build contact with difficult clients and help them cope with their struggles, and with finding reflections in my own life, I showed interest in my work and began to learn more about the center.
 
Achievements of the project:
 
· Produced training for peer counselors from among people living with HIV at the Center for Social Assistance to Families and Children.
 
· Formed a model of the interactions between different public and private institutions that provide assistance to HIV-infected women. Found the important purpose of a peer counselor, an HIV-positive person, working in Family Centers.
 
· Formed a model of a peer counselor team working in Family Centers.
 
· Developed a new client in the center of social assistance to families and children – HIV-positive women. The new clients to the Family Centers.
 
· Increased awareness among professionals of institutions providing care to HIV –positive women about the range of services provided by specialists at the Family Centers.
 
· Continuing to link clients in the Family Centers to the City Infectious Disease Hospital and City Drug Treatment Hospital.
 
Commentary from Marina V. Zhukova, Head of Department for Demography and Gender Policy of the Committee on Social Policy of St. Petersburg:
 
We understand that there are major gaps in working with HIV-positive women and children due to the lack of peer counselors. One of the main tasks of this consultant is to form motivation and commitment to treatment. Knowing how difficult it is to build a trusting relationship with these group, we decided to use the international practice of peer involvement .
 
In fact, we are very pleased that peer counselors have established relationships with HIV-positive clients and motivate them to interact with social services.
 
Prospects for developing the project:
 
To date, the main goal is to build relationships with medical institutions that provide assistance to HIV-positive women. We have already implemented this model into the City Infectious Hospital and City Drug Hospital.
 
At the moment , we see several important trends in the development of the project:
 
1. Education. Additional training of peer educators on the topics: “Protecting the rights of people living with HIV”, “discordant couples”, “Case Management”, “Counseling pregnant HIV-positive women who use drugs.”
 
2. Developing relations with reproductive health services. Creating a network of trusted doctors – gynecologists working in antenatal clinics.
 
3. Development of relations with the City AIDS Center
 

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For 11 years we have been helping HIV-positive women all over Russia to unite and set aside their rights and their dignity as equals among equals.

Even a small donation will help peer consultants do their work and find a way out of difficult situations where the state, relatives and friends are turning away.