In August the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) funded the first CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association) Summer Camp, bringing together HIV-positive young people aged 13-17 from all over the UK and Ireland.
It is vitally important that HIV-positive young people are educated about living with such a chronic and stigmatised health condition, both for their own well being and especially as they transition into adulthood and become sexually active. EJAF and CHIVA identified a gap in prevention and education services and created an experience designed to arm young people with the knowledge to face such a challenging period of their life.
Prior to the camp, many participants had no peers to share and understand their experience and most had never met another young person living with HIV. Almost all also had no access to workshops specifically tailored for them to learn more about the key issues in growing up with HIV.
Through the summer camp, EJAF and CHIVA aimed to remedy this by linking young people with each other, increasing their knowledge of their condition, and by both of these, to help support them in living physically and psychologically well with HIV. The camp offered workshops in which the participants learnt about their medication and their rights as people living with HIV, as well as organised outward bound activities designed to develop confidence and overcome fears. There were also social and leisure activities to give the young people an opportunity to form friendships.
The camp was run predominately by volunteers (a third of whom are also living with HIV) including camp leaders aged 18-24 who had been trained especially for the task. Both volunteers and leaders acted with strict professionalism and were key to the activities and workshops of the camp, as well as being able to take time-out to spend with young people if they needed support. The leaders and volunteers provided indispensable encouragement, and their own experiences inspired their younger peers. This made it both a rich and rewarding experience for volunteers, leaders and participants alike. “Thank you soo so much for giving me the opportunity to be on the camp and meeting new people”, said one 16 year old participant, “I learnt so much in such little time for being there and I appreciate everything you have done for not just me but everyone there. I feel now I have a chance to really open up with these people now and I can just talk like nothing is wrong…”
The Elton John AIDS Foundation is proud to be supporting young people living with HIV in the UK. We are also pleased to report that the first camp was such a great success that preparations are already underway for another in 2011.
For further information on the work of CHIVA please click here, or click here to keep up-to-date on the preparations for the 2011 camp.