HIV Street Support Team - Here for Glasgow
Our HIV Street Support Project is an innovative service directly working in Glasgow city centre tackling the ongoing HIV outbreak. Meet the team and find out about their work.
Meet our HIV Street Support Team
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, who currently celebrate 25 years of supporting communities across Scotland, our HIV Street Support Project team is made up of Mhairi, Collett, Peter and Jenny. Together, the team makes sure people who are homeless or in temporary accommodation in Glasgow city centre can get HIV testing, treatment, and support.
Since 2015 there have been 162 new diagnoses of HIV among people who inject drugs in Glasgow, compared to an average of 10 per year prior to 2015. Around half of people diagnosed in 2019 acquired HIV recently, which means the outbreak is ongoing. Responding to the outbreak, our HIV Street Support team has been making testing and support accessible to anyone at risk of or living with HIV since November 2018.
What are the HIV Street Support Team doing?
The team do their work by walking through Glasgow city centre, stopping to talk to each person who is homeless and offering them testing and support. Often, it can take a long time to build relationships with people who might benefit from the team’s support. That means sometimes the team’s work is simply stopping to say hello, building relationships with people over time encouraging them to get tested or linked into treatment.
“One of the most important things about this job is building relationships with people, so I need to have an understanding of when someone is ready to engage and is open to a chat.”
For others, the team’s presence in the city centre means they can get tested wherever they are – or at the very least ask questions about HIV and how to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. The team give people advice, as well as clean injecting equipment and naloxone – a life saving drug that can prevent opiate overdose.
Whether the team are giving advice, support or building a relationship with someone, their ethos is simple – make sure everyone living with or at risk of HIV in Glasgow city centre knows they can get help, testing and treatment.
“We’re not here to tell people not to use drugs, we’re letting them know how to to use drugs safely. Because their life matters.”
Making testing a part of everyday life
At Waverley Care, we’re making talking about and taking care of sexual health and HIV a part of everyday life. In Glasgow, this can be difficult for people affected by the outbreak as they have lots of other challenges to cope with in life. That’s why Mhairi, Collett, Peter and Jenny take the approach of walking the streets of Glasgow giving people the chance to get an HIV test where they are, when they are there.
“Thankfully, our HIV rapid tests can be done in 15 minutes on the street – and you wouldn’t know that’s what we’re doing if you were walking by.”
Since the team have been in place, they’ve carried out over 130 HIV tests in Glasgow city centre – with the success of this work coming from the team’s flexible approach. Each of these HIV tests was carried out while the team have been with people who would have otherwise needed to travel for testing while facing complex issues such as homelessness, poverty, poor mental health, trauma and addiction.
“There’s not a lot of workers out there that will listen and help the way you have so thanks very much.” Sandra, 43
To find out more about the work of our HIV Street Support Team, you can get in contact with us here.
To read our latest briefing on the ongoing HIV outbreak in Glasgow, check out out our resources here.