University of Strathclyde student Ava Hepburn recently completed a work placement at Waverley Care.
I am currently a Health History Masters student at the University of Strathclyde. I was delighted to have been given the opportunity to complete a work placement with Waverley Care under the supervision of Research & Engagement Manager Jennifer Goff. Waverley Care does incredibly important work to help people. They have successfully created a non-judgemental environment where people can seek support and advice for sexual health matters. I was grateful for the opportunity to work with an organisation whose values strongly align with my own.
My assignment project explored levels of U=U awareness among health practitioners. Undetectable = untransmittable (U=U for short) means that a person living with HIV, who is taking treatment as directed by their clinician, can have an undetectable amount of the HIV virus in their blood. This means they will not pass the HIV virus on through sex. It is important that health practitioners know about U=U because it encourages people living with HIV to adhere to antiretroviral therapy and to maintain an undetectable viral load. This research is significant to Waverley Care as through research, health and living standards can be improved.
I worked alongside Jen and other members of the team to identify survey questions. I also collaborated with Emily Barton, Digital Communications Officer, to create promotional content for social media. Once my questions were approved by Jen, the survey went live, and we shared the link with potential respondents and organisations.
I found that there is variable awareness of U=U among health practitioners. For example, 50% of health practitioners surveyed stated that they had never heard of U=U. This suggests that U=U messaging needs to be stronger. Further, 42% of respondents stated that they ‘never’ receive training on sexual health or updates on research relating to sexual health. A further 42% stated that they ‘rarely’ receive training or updates. Only 17% stated that they receive training and updates ‘every few years.’ These statistics reveal that more regular training on matters such as U=U needs to be available to all health practitioners.
One of the most interesting responses for me was to the question asking if U=U messaging could become the responsibility of clinical or prescribing support pharmacists within the NHS. An overwhelming 89% of respondents answered ‘yes’ to this question. With such high support, this opportunity could be explored further by Waverley Care and would ultimately allow for U=U messaging to reach more people.
I felt completely supported by Jen and her team throughout. I could contact Jen at any time and several members of the team were keen to meet with me to support my research. For example, Francis Osis, Community Heritage Officer, arranged a tour of the Moving Image archives at Kelvin Hall for myself and two other students on placement at Waverley Care. Overall, the staff created a very welcoming workplace environment, and I was continually encouraged and supported throughout the placement.