Press release -
SHE: First-Ever European Peer Support Programme Launches to Empower and Improve the Quality of Life for Women Living with HIV
- HIV has become the leading cause of disease and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.1
- Although women are one of the most vulnerable groups for HIV, few resources are available that address the specific challenges they are facing.
- Multiple resources are now available to inform and empower women living with HIV through peer support.
(ROME, 19 July, 2011) – “SHE” – Strong, HIV Positive, Empowered Women – the first comprehensive European patient education programme to address the growing challenges faced by women living with HIV, was launched at the 6th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Rome, Italy. The programme was developed by an independent advisory board of women personally impacted by HIV and healthcare professionals from six European countries and is supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
The goal of the programme is to empower women living with HIV to improve the quality of their lives, especially through effective and positive dialogue with healthcare providers, and overcome challenges they may face, such as disclosure and getting the most out of their healthcare services.
The SHE programme is based on a peer support model. Research shows that information provided by peers is seen as particularly credible, trustworthy and influential. Peer educators also provide inspiring role models to women living with HIV while personally benefiting from the process.2
The Female Face of HIV
In Europe, the number of women living with HIV is on the rise. In 2008, at least 35% of the new HIV diagnoses made across Europe were in women.3 Despite improved long-term treatment and prognosis, HIV remains complex, imposing unique challenges for women,4 however, HIV services rarely respond to their specific needs. Many women are left with an unaddressed gap between diagnosis and effective, informed healthcare.4,5
SHE is designed to address this disparity and bridge the knowledge gap between physicians and women living with HIV by providing resources, including a toolkit to be used in a peer support setting, as well as a website to be launched in September: www.shetoshe.org.
“As a woman living with HIV, I know that we need more than just medical management to improve the quality of our lives,” said SHE advisory board co-chair Silvia Petretti, MSc, community development manager, Positively UK. “We face daily stigma and challenges, and peer support has been shown to empower us, since only another woman living with HIV can truly understand how stigma and discrimination affect our daily lives, and what we can do so that our communities can show us real solidarity. As the number of women living with HIV in Europe continues to increase, we hope that SHE may help more women feel empowered, and close the information gap we are seeing in resources that are currently available to them.”
The SHE programme also works to facilitate communication between women living with HIV and their healthcare providers, while also encouraging healthcare providers to facilitate peer support at their clinics.
“As a clinician, I have seen the advantages that appropriate peer support can provide to women, including increased sense of empowerment, becoming better informed and enhanced self-esteem,” said SHE advisory board co-chair Professor Jane Anderson, Homerton University Hospital, United Kingdom. “Peer support can enable women living with HIV and their healthcare teams to maximise the benefits of treatment and care and make the best use of available resources. We hope that this resource will enhance communication between healthcare providers and women living with HIV.”
SHE to SHE: Empowering Through Skills and Self-Confidence
The SHE toolkit is a practical, information-based resource with nine sections that provide information on critical topics and issues such as diagnosis, disclosure, sex and relationships, living well with HIV, getting the most out of treatment, interactions with healthcare providers and addressing human rights issues.
The toolkit will be utilised in community centres, hospitals and clinics by leaders of peer support groups for women living with HIV, while the SHE website will expand the programme’s online presence and maximise the reach of the toolkit materials. A section within the toolkit is addressed to healthcare professionals and discusses the value of the SHE programme and the benefits of using a peer support model in a clinical setting.
Running parallel to the SHE patient education programme is a scientific advisory board of European healthcare professionals committed to developing best practices regarding management and treatment of women living with HIV.
Furthermore, the SHE programme aims to engage policymakers to consider the special issues confronting women living with HIV, thereby increasing awareness and understanding throughout Europe.
Following its premiere at IAS, the programme will launch on a local level in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
About Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. Bristol-Myers Squibb has been involved in the fight against HIV for more than two decades and is proud to support SHE, a programme addressing a large unmet need for women living with HIV.
Amra Turalic, TogoRun: +1 347 421 4573 / +1 917 302 2702
Silvia Petretti, SHE Co-Chair: +44 (0)207 7130222
- BBC News: “UN Warns HIV/AIDS Leading Cause of Death in Women.” Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8546655.stm. Accessed March 2010.
- van Uden-Kraan et al. Quality Health Resources. 2008. 18; 405-417.
- World Health Organization: “Annual rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Europe more than doubled,” December 2009. Available at http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-publish/information-for-the-media/sections/press-releases/2009/12/annual-rate-of-newly-diagnosed-hiv-infections-in-europe-more-than-doubled. Accessed February 2011.
- UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNIFEM: “Women and HIV/AIDS: Confronting the Crisis,” 2004. Available at http://www.genderandaids.org/downloads/conference/308_filename_women_aids1.pdf. Accessed June 2011.
- World Health Organisation: “Gender inequalities and HIV.” Available at http://www.who.int/gender/hiv_aids/en/. Accessed February 2011.