Mandy moved down to Brighton two years ago from Essex, where her work background varied from hairdressing, to working with young people with learning difficulties, and later as a trainee midwife. However, a change in personal circumstances, led Mandy to leave her home town and start afresh in Brighton, where she volunteered for THT as a community support volunteer.
After a period of covering another worker role in this field, led to Mandy’s permanent position with the THT team were she took further training to become a HIV Health Trainer.
So what is the role, and who can it help?
Thanks to funding from the Elton John Foundation (EJAF), Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the National Aids Manual (NAM) have devised a new role of HIV Health Trainer, to complement the servicers THT already offer throughout England Scotland and Wales, with Mandy South leading the post of HIV Health Trainer for their THT office in Brighton.
Part of my role is to help people who find it difficult to adhere to medical regimes for what ever reason, be it due to relationship difficulties, drug use, or marginalised background. The main aim is for me to enable people living with HIV to manage their condition and get on with their lives.
After the initial contact with the service user and an assessment program of needs have been discussed, the THT Health Trainer will visit the service user were they most feel comfortable. For example, an appointment can be arranged to meet at their home, in town, at a coffee shop or at the THT office at 61 Ship Street, Brighton. As part of the THT Health Trainer service, their role is to offer Health Training support, where the client’s emotional and practical needs are identified and a plan of action is proposed. These may included accompany their client to appointments at the local HIV clinic The Lawson Unit, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Eastern Road, Brighton.
“Many clients find it beneficial to have someone sit with them while the nurse or doctor discusses treatment with them. Afterwards we can sit down and go through over important issues like the importance to adherence to medical regimes, managing side effects, diet and nutrition. Sometimes clients like to have someone to talk to about how they feel.” Mandy South: HIV Health Trainer
Other servicers included help with benefit forms, applying for grants, emergency funds, exploring courses on the internet, or counselling. From here the service user can then be referred to other THT servicers appropriate to their needs. For those newly diagnosed, it can feel like feel walking in a minefield of emotions as they try to make sense of their diagnoses. The role THT Health Trainer involves working with service users who may feel isolated or confused for whatever reason and to reassure them that they are not alone. With an extensive knowledge of experience in the field of HIV, the THT Health Trainer enables their client to take control of their diagnoses and most importantly their lives.
If you feel you could benefit from seeing Mandy to discuss your HIV needs, then call to make an appointment at THT on 01273-764200. Mandy South, Brighton’s HIV Health Trainer, will endeavour to contact you within 48 hours. A further appointment will be made to meet face to face within a seven day period.
Tim first became involved in welfare rights for people with HIV back in 1985. He volunteered for
THT (London), providing voluntary support and advice once a fortnight to people who where struck down with HIV; a condition that at the time was deeply misunderstood.
You have to remember in the early 1980’s, if you disclosed your HIV positive status to a member of the benefit agency, it was quite likely that you would be evicted from the building; such was the fear of the condition at the time.
Tim continued to volunteer for THT, while working full time as an interior designer. By 1988, the increasing demand for welfare advice, allowed Tim to take on the role as a fulltime, paid worker.
1998 Tim move down to Brighton, where he took on the role of welfare rights at Open-Door until its closure in 2008. From there he moved to the Brighton branch of THT where he continues to give support and advice on welfare rights.
Presently, Tim and his group of volunteers offer a range of servicers to people seeking welfare advice and support. This includes an advice-line that Tim runs every Wednesday between 10am until 1pm. Tim is also available, via an appointment only, between Tuesday to Thursday and alternate Fridays for one to one advice on all aspects of welfare rights for those living with HIV, Including:
- Benefits if you are sick or disabled
- Benefits for people in work or on low incomes
- Benefits if you are considering a return to work
- Benefits for individuals and families, across the life span
One of the important roles Tim presently offers is support and advice centred on the changes currently being made to the benefit system as a whole. For example, those in receipt of income support and incapacity benefit will eventually be reassessed and moved to the new employment and support allowance.
The eight stage assessment is quite complex. However, Tim is running group workshops, enabling people to understand what the changes will mean and how they can tackle the various aspects of the form. With the demand for his servicers at an all time high, running the workshops allows more people to be seen.
Running the workshop groups have proven very popular. Not only because it allows more people to become informed about the changes being made, but it also lets people ask questions, share advice and identify problems before they arise.
Another very important service Tim offers is helping people who wish to return to work. Previously, the benefit system often trapped people. However, over the last few years reforms have been made making the transition back into work a little easier. For example, there is the permitted work scheme, which permits people to work up to 16 hours per week, while retaining part of their benefits. Another option to those who feel they may want to work more hours, there is the opportunity to do so with their weekly income being topped up with tax credits.
With the current administration making sweeping changes to the benefit, many people may be left feeling unsure what their options are. For some good advice on all aspects of your welfare rights, you may wish to speak to Tim or one of his trained volunteers. As formerly mentioned, Tim works at THT from Tuesday to Thursday and every alternate Friday; please be advised that he can only see you via an appointment.
Because the service Tim provides is in such high demand, it is advisable to contact one of the other servicers that THT offers first to see if Tim and his team are the right people you need to see. These include the advice line, picking on a leaflet from the THT office or making an appointment THT’s health advisor Mandy South to discuss matters further.
To make an appointment or to discuss any matters concerning HIV/ Aids, please call reception on 01273-764200.
All comments welcome.