NLTSG provides support to people in the UK who have been living with HIV and AIDS for five or more years. Founded in 1992 and incorporated as a charity in 1994, at a time when reaching five years with an HIV diagnosis was a significant milestone, the organisation remains as relevant today as it was back in the early 1990s; people may be living longer and with better health, but issues around stigma, isolation, relationships and many others remain the same.
The main activity of NLTSG is the organising of the “Living Proof” weekend retreats. The weekends provide a safe, relaxed place to meet other people who have also been living with HIV for five or more years. The weekend retreats for long-term survivors are very relaxed and those attending can choose how much, or how little, they take part in the organised activities during the weekend. The “Living Proof” weekend retreats cost £170 per person. This covers the cost of the accommodation and all meals, as well as contributing to the cost of the facilitators, complementary therapists and the running of the organisation. They currently hold funding, including a grant from The Make A Difference Trust, which means that they can subsidise the cost of the weekend so that everyone only needs to pay £95.
At the end of each weekend they ask all who have attended to complete an evaluation form. This allows them to assess what they are doing well, and what they could be better.
The final question on the evaluation form asks people to sum up the weekend in one sentence. Some of the comments include:
- A fulfilling weekend of enjoyment and love
- Emotional and empowering
- Enjoyable, relaxing, informative
- Excellent weekend for support and meeting like-minded people
- Good time away from home and mixing with others
Thank You MAD Trust!
The Make A Difference Trust (MAD) has had a massively positive impact on the National Long Term Survivors Group (NLTSG)…its awards over the past few years have enabled many people living with HIV to enjoy and benefit from attendance at a Living Proof residential weekend.
Grants from the MAD Trust have allowed NLTSG to offer partly subsidised places to all new and existing members who pay for themselves.
A certain number of fully funded MAD places have been given to individuals with links to the Entertainment Industry; these have included actors, dancers, stage management personnel and musicians.
Living Proof weekends offer a safe environment for long term survivors of HIV to experience peer support of the highest quality, make new friends and establish support networks, as well as having the opportunity to laugh and relax, have complementary therapies, enjoy delicious nutritious food and take delight in the surrounding beautiful countryside with its abundance of natural flora and profusion of wildlife.
Comments from members’ evaluations of Living Proof weekends consistently report positive benefits. People express gratitude and appreciation for the chance to be themselves and recharge their batteries; they often report on how much they have gained in confidence, and respect for themselves and others in the same boat, facing similar challenges.