HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland has launched a new project to support hundreds of families affected by HIV across Scotland. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Confident Families is the largest-scale initiative aimed at the friends and family of people with HIV in Scotland to date.

People living with HIV can find it difficult to come to terms with their diagnosis, and can feel isolated and unable to reach out to loved ones. Conversely, friends and family members can have very specific needs, from a partner needing information on how to stay HIV-negative, to a young person struggling to come to terms with a parent’s diagnosis. Confident Families aims to improve the wellbeing of families affected by HIV by supporting not just with those living with the virus but their friends, partners and relatives.

The project covers the NHS regions of Ayrshire & Arran, Fife, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, and Tayside. Regular meetings will be established in each area, offering a forum for people to make new friends and speak with others who may have had similar experiences. They can also access tailored one-on-one advice from project staff on a range of issues, including welfare rights, debt, employment, health, social care and pre/post natal support. Where necessary counselling will also be offered.

Currently, there are over 5,500 people in Scotland with HIV. In 2012, 350 people were newly diagnosed with the condition in the country.

Robert McKay, National Director for Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said: “Being diagnosed with HIV is such a life-changing event for the individual concerned that the knock-on effect on their loved ones can be overlooked. Friends and family members need support too, especially if they don’t know much about the condition themselves. They may not realise that HIV is a manageable condition, or that people with the virus can live long and healthy lives.

“By helping friends and family to come to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis, and bringing their understanding of the condition up to date, we hope our new project will strengthen the support networks of people affected by HIV across Scotland.”

Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland has a range of volunteer roles on offer for local people interested in supporting the project. For further information, or to get involved, please call (0141) 332 3838, or email confidentfamilies@tht.org.uk

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