Caring with someone with HIV can be difficult, especially when you’re starting from scratch.

People Living With HIV/AIDS Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council will host their second Connected workshop this month for partners, family members and friends, preparing them to look after HIV-positive loved ones.

VAC manager of counselling Trish Thompson told Southern Star the course tackles the often hard-to-ask questions.

“People often don’t have a lot of information about HIV. They can get scared, and sometimes the person who’s HIV-positive feels they need to support their friends or family, rather than the other way around,” Thompson said.

“I think there is still that reaction people have when someone says they’re HIV positive that they’re going to die.

“The life span is so much more than it used to be and doctors are saying it’s closer to a normal life span, particularly if people are on antiretrovirals and living healthy lifestyles.”

The last workshop attracted a diverse crowd of family members and straight and gay partners, who still keep in touch for support.

For some, all they need is someone to talk to.

“One of the women who attended the last session was a mother and her son did die,” Thompson said.

“She spent a lot of time in the hospital with her son and got no support whatsoever, no one checked in to say, ‘How are you?’.

“This can happen to people who are in close relationships with someone who’s positive and if they do become very ill, or perhaps die, they are overlooked because so much focus is on the person with the illness.”

In the one-day session, the workshop will cover emotional support, HIV transmission, antiretroviral medication, disclosure, stigma, and available support services.

“We’ve got a session around communication strategies [which] looks at understanding what is helpful for the person, not necessarily trying to wrap them up in cotton wool.”

Connected is on Saturday, March 20 from 11am to 4pm at the Positive Living Centre, 51 Commercial Rd, South Yarra.

info: To attend Connected, call Trish on 9865 6700 or email trish_thompson@vicaids.asn.au

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