UK food chain tackles HIV / AIDS head-on with crisis support


The Food Chain, a London-based charity, helps people living with HIV who need social services ranging from short-term assistance to connections to longer-term support, explained Anna Brewster, Head of HIV / AIDS. services and volunteers at The Food Chain.


Can you introduce yourself and tell us about The Food Chain?

My name is Anna Brewster. I am responsible for services and volunteers at The Food Chain. We are a small community-based HIV and nutrition charity in London, and we work with people living with HIV in London who are going through times of crisis. This crisis could be really anything. It could be a nutritional crisis, a health crisis, a physical or mental health crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, anything that means they are facing obstacles. to access good levels of nutrition. We work with anyone who meets these criteria in the London area.

Most of our referrals come directly from the NHS [National Health Service], therefore clinicians, HIV clinics, hospital dietitians, general practitioners [general practitioners], specialized community nurses. But we also receive referrals from other HIV support organizations and other community organizations that also identify this need. What we ask our referees is that they have an initial assessment, that they make sure that this person meets the crisis criteria – because we are a small charity, we are a community organization and we only work with short-term crisis intervention. We therefore expect a referee to help us make this assessment to ensure that it is indeed someone who is going through a crisis.

As a small charity, we are never in a position to provide short-term help. The idea is that our services come into a person’s life as they go through this time of crisis and through our services we are able to alleviate this level of crisis to the extent that they can access independently to other means of support and sort of lift himself up a bit. Obviously, this doesn’t always work, especially in the type of economic climate we live in. Even pre-pandemic, the economic climate we live in in the UK means that people’s crises aren’t always easy to resolve, so it doesn’t always work as ideally as we would like.

But we really do serve the needs of our community, so if anyone needs a little more support, we always do our best to facilitate that, whether that is by providing direct services from us or by putting in place. puts the support system for them outside of ourselves.

How are HIV / AIDS services covered in the UK?

All HIV care and medication is free at the access point. When it comes to accessing HIV care, there really is no financial barrier, in that sense, to getting drugs or treatment. It’s the same with PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis, so if anyone thinks they’ve been exposed to HIV. And it is now, after a long struggle, that it is now the case with PrEP, the pre-exposure prophylaxis. There is great accessibility in terms of care and medication in the NHS in the UK. I am very proud to work on the outskirts of the NHS. It is something that we have to be proud of and we have to protect and make sure that it is not broken.

I think it’s important to note that HIV care isn’t just about antiretroviral therapy, it’s not just about lowering your viral load or increasing your CD4 count. It is also a question of overall health. It’s about having the kind of secure housing that allows you to live a life without that kind of stress, that you can do your groceries, you can store your groceries in your house, you can cook yourself, you don’t. Don’t always worry about the gas going out or the electricity being cut or expelled. It is also having access to benefits. If you are working in this country, your visa may say “No use of public funds”, which means that if you fall ill you may not necessarily be able to claim state benefits. while you are sick. It’s all of these things that fuel a picture of overall health. It’s not just about viral load and CD4’s like I mentioned. We are very grateful that it is free in this country.

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