HELPING people with HIV to access and prepare fresh food is an important part of Bolton Clarke’s work supporting better health for people living with HIV.
Bolton Clarke HIV team Clinical Nurse Consultant Liz Crock said while treatments and services had vastly improved since the days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, client numbers were growing and an increasingly diverse and ageing client base meant a greater need for co-ordinated support.
Strong community partnerships remain critical in the effective delivery of services to support health and wellness for people with HIV and their families.
Part of Bolton Clarke’s 27-year partnership with the Victorian AIDS Council involves joint delivery of Project Tuckerbag, improving access to nutritious food for people living with HIV – particularly isolated clients.
The program provides short-term fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries, free range eggs, recipes and other ingredients, as well as basic cooking equipment.
“We identify clients who are at risk of food insecurity, and volunteers from the Victorian AIDS Council make the deliveries and also assist with shopping and food preparation,” Dr Crock said.
“The project this year has focused on people living with HIV from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including refugees and asylum seekers from a number of African countries and the south-east Asian region, including Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.
“Tuckerbag has helped several families with children improve their nutrition – a vital component of HIV care.
“We have cared for a number of refugee and asylum seeker families, some of whom have HIV positive children – with issues such as housing, nutrition, finances, transport, trauma, school, literacy and the children’s poor health all requiring urgent and well-co-ordinated attention.”
Over the past year, Bolton Clarke’s HIV program has experienced a constant increase in demand and service access from 185 clients in 2015-16 to 235 in 2016-17.
Clients come from 38 different countries and speak at least 35 languages and range in age from children under five to people in their 90s.
More than 70 per cent of the HIV team’s clients are men, and about 40 per cent are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Dr Crock said programs supporting people with HIV had evolved over the years and today the focus was very much on supporting wellbeing and independence. The Bolton Clarke clinical support teams work closely with the HIV team and its clients to support clinical care needs.
“Despite treatment successes and prevention tools, there is an ongoing need for integrated community-based programs supporting people living with HIV,” Dr Crock said.
“Our partnership with the Victorian AIDS Council is a rare example of formal collaboration between a clinical service and a community-based volunteer program.
“We need to continue to advocate for this type of service integration, particularly looking for opportunities in the aged care sector.”
December 1 is World AIDS Day, supporting people living with HIV and raising awareness of issues affecting people with HIV and AIDS.