Promoting social connection and resilience through HIV peer networks

Peer support programs play an important role in HIV communities.

They promote social connection and resilience among people living with HIV.

They help people living with HIV navigate the clinical, emotional and social aspects of living with HIV.

Recent Australian research highlights why peer support programs are successful. It is because they:

  • Offer belonging and connection. Peer support programs help people living with HIV make connections. These are often different to existing social networks.
  • Give opportunities to hear lived experience. Peer programs build on clinical input. They provide insights into how others manage aspects of living with HIV such as disclosure, sex and relationships.
  • Link people to appropriate support. Peer programs fill an important gap in HIV care. The help make sure people are linked to support that meets their social and cultural needs.[1]

The research found that if people are connected to peer support services it can help them adjust to a positive diagnosis.

This means that connecting older people living with HIV with peers will also help them explore the unique experiences of ageing with HIV.

The research also highlights the importance of applying an intersectional lens. It notes that gender, culture and other factors are important when connecting people living with HIV to peer support programs.

Peer-led programs are delivered in most states and territories around Australia.

For example Living Positive Victoria delivers thePeer Support Network. This is a monthly informal gathering. They also offer the Positive self-management program. This is a weekly program delivered over six weeks delivered twice a year.

Like other programs offered nationally, the Positive self-management program covers topics such as:

  • Connecting with others and breaking down isolation
  • Integrating medication regiments into your daily life so they can be taken consistently
  • Techniques to deal with problems such as frustration, fear, fatigue, pain and isolation
  • Appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • Nutrition
  • Evaluating symptoms
  • Communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals such as your doctor
  • How to achieve your goals.[2]


Hear Nigel talk about his experience of participating in the Living Positive Victoria Positive self-management program (0:45):

More Information

For listings of peer-led programs in most states and territories, visit the NAPWHA Older PLHIV directory.

[1] Wells, N. et al. (2022). Patient-centred approaches to providing care at HIV diagnosis: perspectives from healthcare and peer-support workers, Sexual Health, 10.1071/SH22052, 19, 5.

[2] Living Positive Victoria (2023). Positive self-management program.

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