Meet our Highland Team | Coinnich ris an Sgioba Gàidhealach againn
Our Highland team work across Highland and Argyll & Bute, helping people and communities who need support with HIV and sexual health.
Meet the team | Coinneachadh ris an sgioba
Funded by NHS Highland in 2010, our Highland team is made up of Rachel, Jo, Amanda, Rory, and Tine. Together they work across the region, making conversations about sexual health a part of everyday life while helping people who need support with HIV live well. The team’s work is as diverse as the people we support. From making testing accessible in remote and rural areas, to carrying out LGBT+ diversity training with community groups and professionals alike. You’ll find the team carrying out lots of different activities everywhere from Caithness to Campbeltown.
HIV and sexual health in Highland | HIV agus slàinte feise air a ’Ghàidhealtachd
- 162 people are diagnosed and living with HIV in Highland. Of those diagnosed, 67 people identified as men who have sex with men and 91% are currently attending specialist HIV services.
- As of December 2018, 685 people were diagnosed with chlamydia. Highland has the lowest rate of chlamydia infections for people aged under 25 in Scotland.
- In 2018, there were 58 people diagnosed with gonorrhea in Highland.
- The rate of teenage pregnancy in Highland is 26 in every 1000; however, this rate rises to 46.4 in every 1000 in Highland’s most deprived areas.
Note! STI statistics for Highland are estimated to be higher than shown by Health Protection Scotland’s data. This is because Highland residents living in Argyll & Bute often go to sexual health and testing services in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, meaning these figures may be reported as part of Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s data.
Smashing stigma through training | A ’briseadh stiogma tro thrèanadh
Our Highland team carry out lots of different training sessions across the region for professionals and groups. Each session is tailored to the differing needs of every group, and is made up of interactive activities, discussions and giving up to date information and resources.
“We are the only provider offering sessions on these topics in the Highland area. It’s really important that professionals have the opportunity to attend vital training without having to travel to the central belt.” – Rachel, Highland Team
The team’s training sessions cover:
- Blood borne virus and sexual health awareness
- LGBTI+ and trans awareness
- Working with Young People: Sex and Relationships through Wave Highland
- Sex and the law through Wave Highland
- Chemsex awareness through SX
- GP and medical practitioner training
“[The training session] challenged my thinking on so many things as an LGBT+ person, which really surprised me! Lots to think about and take away for further discussion!” – Sharon, Training Attendee
The team have trained lots of different groups and organisations, from University of the Highlands and Island, to Calmac to Highland Pride! Interested in arranging training? Get in contact with us here.
“Useful training for everyone, not just care sector workers.” – James, Training Attendee
Making testing local | A ’dèanamh deuchainn ionadail
The team each travels across the Highland and Argyll & Bute region, giving people the chance to get confidential and discreet HIV testing in their localities. Often stigma can prevent people from getting tested in local community services in remote and rural areas. By understanding the issues people face in the region, our team encourages people to get tested in a way that is comfortable for them. As with support, travel and poor weather conditions can also be a big barrier to getting tested in remote and rural areas. By going to where people are, the team is making HIV testing accessible for everyone – no matter where they live.
“This is an amazing service. I wanted to know my status asap and this service made it possible. I was so anxious but tester put me at ease.” - Jed, 32
In a six month period, the team has carried out 25 HIV tests everywhere from Oban to Skye, Helensburgh to Inverness. When carrying out a test, the team also has the chance to talk with people about preventing HIV and STIs. That means each test is an opportunity to help people understand how best to protect themselves from infection, helping reduce new HIV and STI infections across the region.
Alongside HIV testing, our Highland team is now making syphilis testing available across Argyll & Bute through SX. We’re also launching syphilis testing across Highland in spring 2020, watch this space for more information soon!
Being there when you need support | A bhith ann nuair a dh ’fheumas tu taic
Rachel, Amanda, Jo, Rory and Tine each help people who need support with HIV and sexual health. That means supporting people already diagnosed with HIV or STIs to find ways of managing treatment and living well, while helping families and partners of those diagnosed to understand and better support their loved ones.
When it comes to living with HIV in remote and rural areas, people affected by the condition often experience poor mental health and isolation because of stigma. That’s why making sure people can get support where they are is important for empowering people living with HIV to care of their health and wellbeing, while combatting isolation and loneliness.
The team’s ethos is making support accessible – meeting people at our office or, in a place that is comfortable for them. Whether it’s in Bute or Inverpolly, the team make sure people who need support with HIV can do so in a safe, welcoming environment where they can talk openly without judgement or stigma.
“It’s about meeting people where they are and providing options for support. Some people will want to travel to access services, others will want to be able to meet staff in their own locality – we always take a person-centred approach” – Rachel, Highland Team
Alongside one to one support, the team connect people living with HIV to peer support over the phone or in person. Peer support is where one person uses their own lived experience to guide and support another person, helping them realise their own potential and find ways of overcoming challenges in life. Making sure people in Highland and Argyll & Bute have the option to receive peer support over the phone is vital for remote and rural areas, as often public transport is limited and poor weather conditions can make travelling long distances a big challenge.
“If peer mentoring makes life easier for someone else then that’s what I want, because you don’t want to struggle and be distressed and not taking part in things or miss out on life because you’re still dealing with these issues. But by addressing the issues hopefully we can speed up the process a wee bit so you can get back to a life you can really enjoy.” - Sarah, Peer Mentor
Wave is our Highland service focused on getting young people thinking and talking about their sexual health and relationships. First set up in 2017 our Highland team carry out Wave’s work by going into schools and community groups, making sexual health and relationships workshops fun and interactive for young people. The team also create lots of great resources for young people and professionals working with young people, making those awkward conversations about sex just a part of every day life! You can download and use our Wave resources here.
Our SX national service was established in Highland and Argyll & Bute in 2019. The team’s ethos is sex-positive, and their focus is always on improving the physical, sexual and mental health and wellbeing of all men who have sex with men.
Across the region, the team reaches out to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men who need support with HIV and sexual health. Alongside support, the team make testing accessible across the region and work to prevent new infections by going to public sex environments, dropping off condoms and lube.
Digital outreach is a big part of SX’s work across Highland and Argyll & Bute. By digital outreach, we mean having health-focused conversations with men who have sex with men through apps – giving them up to date information about how to take care of their sexual health and answering any questions they have about HIV and STIs. This is an important way of communicating health information to men online in remote and rural areas, when they are already thinking about sex.
“Our work online may seem unconventional to some. Today this is predominantly where men meet other men for sex. We work closely with the app providers to get good quality information across to men, and are on hand to provide support when needed.” – Alastair, SX Team
Before you go...
Waverley Care relies on the generosity of our supporters to make what we do possible. Please consider making a donation today to ensure we can continue reaching out across Scotland to individuals, families and communities who need support with HIV, hepatitis C and sexual health.