Spotlight on Milestone - Back to the Beginning
Milestone holds special status in the history of Waverley Care, as the place where it all began. The work of our Residential Support Centre today is a far cry from its early focus on end-of-life care, and here we take a closer look at how the project has developed over the last 30 years...
How did Milestone’s story begin?
When Waverley Care was founded in 1989, the HIV epidemic in Edinburgh was at its height.
HIV was a relatively new illness and effective treatments were still years away. People were becoming very ill and dying, and had nowhere to turn to for support. Sigma and fear were everywhere.
Against this backdrop, the charity’s mission was to develop the UK’s first purpose-built AIDS hospice and two years later, on 25 January 1991, Milestone officially opened its doors.
At the time, the service existed to provide dignity and care for people who were dying, and to provide emotional support for their family and friends.
How was Milestone received when it opened?
Milestone was built in the grounds of the old City Hospital to the south of Edinburgh.
Because of the fear and stigma surrounding HIV at the time, local people were understandably nervous about what the hospice would bring to their area.
A big moment in changing perceptions came on 11 October 1991, when Princess Diana visited Milestone. Diana was noted for her support for HIV awareness at the time, and her visit sent a positive message that contradicted the negative media coverage.
For the service users who were resident at the time, her kindness demonstrated they were not being ignored while, for the wider public, it highlighted that people living with HIV mattered, and that the condition was something to face not fear.
Over the years, Milestone has become an integral part of the local community, building strong links with local schools and businesses, and opening our doors to let people know about the work we’re doing.
“Coming to Milestone was a godsend. Before, I would just sit in the house all the time but at Milestone there were always things going on. Just coming up here, talking to the staff and other service users was amazing."
How has Milestone changed over the years?
Milestone’s early focus on end-of-life HIV care began to evolve with the introduction of the new, more effective treatments that began to emerge from 1996 onwards.
These new treatments, known as ART or Anti-Retroviral Therapies, were better at controling the condition, meaning that people could live longer, healthier lives with HIV. These treatments mean it is now incredibly rare for people to die as a result of HIV, and it is now a far more manageable long-term health condition.
As a result, Milestone’s mission also evolved, with the focus shifting towards helping people to live well. At the turn of the century, we began to work with more and more people who were living with both HIV and hepatitis C, a condition that affects the liver. Today, we are there to provide support to people with both conditions.
So what does the team at Milestone provide today?
Living with HIV or hepatitis C can impact on just about every aspect of a person’s life and, at times, we all need some extra support.
Milestone offers short-term residential accommodation where people can access intensive support, allowing them to focus on improving their physical and emotional health at times when they are struggling to cope.
Our staff are there to support residents to manage their condition well in whatever ways they need – whether it’s keeping up-to-date with treatment, coping with side effects or managing daily tasks like getting to appointments.
We also offer the opportunity for peer support where residents can share their experiences in a supportive environment.
Beyond the direct benefits to service users, Milestone helps to relieve pressure on NHS services, providing the care and support that allows people to leave hospital early or, in many cases, avoid the need for admission to hospital in the first place.
What are the facilities like?
Since a refurbishment in 2014, Milestone now has 10 private rooms where residents can spend time. There are also shared facilities including a kitchen and common room where people can get together and welcome visitors.
A major advantage of Milestone is its garden. Spending time outdoors has proven benefits for mental wellbeing and the volunteer-maintained garden provides that opportunity.
The team look to create a fun, informal atmosphere, with a range of social activities going on, from drop-in cafes and service user-organised events, to the Tartan Ribbon Community Choir which is open to service users and members of the community alike.
Our work at Milestone is a far cry from its early focus on end-of-life care, with the focus now very much on helping people with HIV and hepatitis C to live well and plan for the future. That work is only possible thanks to the generosity of supporters like you. Find out how you can support the work of Waverley Care from our donations page.