CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association) was established in 2002 as a network for people providing health care for children and young people living with HIV across the UK and Ireland. Prior to this it was part of the British HIV Association with whom it still has close links. In 2008 CHIVA became a registered charity and expanded its work to include direct work with young people living with HIV. CHIVA provides information, guidance and support for professionals, parents and young people living with HIV and runs an annual support camp for HIV positive young people.
Freedom To Be residential support camp has been developed in response to the extreme isolation children growing up with HIV face.
Children frequently describe the most difficult aspect of growing up with HIV, is the feeling that they are different from their peers, and hold an acute sense of fear and loss of hope for their future.
Due to there being a relatively low demographic of children who are dispersed across the UK, local specialist support services are unavailable to the majority of these children.
CHIVA works nationally to engage children in its work to reach the most isolated children, ensuring the extreme isolation faced by them is addressed through our work. ‘Freedom to be’ brings these children together for a week.
Enabling critical peer support networks to be established. ‘Freedom to be’ also provides emotional support and educational support to improve awareness, understanding and acceptance of HIV. It uses creative and performance arts to actively engage young people in sharing and exploring activities to better understand HIV and develop stronger self-efficacy skills.
Freedom To Be is a residential support intervention, which takes place for 5 days in August each year. It offers the opportunity for 100 children growing up with HIV in the UK to attend.
CHIVA works extensively with its clinical networks to ensure the most isolated children are able to access their support camp. CHIVA engages with families to build relationships and trust which enables children to access the camp.
Recruiting a team of 20 volunteers to provide support to the young people throughout the week; a team of 12 peer mentors (older youth who have grown up with HIV under the age of 24) and professional arts facilitators in drama, music and art to provide activities and workshops at camp throughout the week. Along with HIV specialists who visit to support discussion focussed HIV workshops.
CHIVA develops a varied, active and engaging programme of workshops and activities throughout the week, which enable the experience of HIV to be shared and explored in different ways. Where understanding and knowledge can be supported and developed and safe, open spaces for questions provided. The ethos of ‘Freedom to be’ is a safe and open space where young people are able to experience their HIV, feeling completely accepted, and they are open about living with HIV for the most part for the first time. This enables them to develop strong connections with peers who uniquely share this experience.
As a result of attending a ’Freedom To Be’ Camp, it is hoped children and young people with HIV will have:
- An reduced isolation through attending ‘Freedom to be’ and accessing a peer network.
- An enhanced knowledge and understanding of their HIV through attending workshops and organised activities which focus on enhancing HIV knowledge and understanding at ‘Freedom to be’.
- An enhanced emotional well being, a greater acceptance of their HIV and stronger self-efficacy skills as a result of attending ‘Freedom to be’.