Rules of engagement
Andrew Eaton shares the process of developing a strategy for Living Positive Victoria to better engage people living with HIV.
This past winter, I was asked to work with Living Positive Victoria (LPV) to develop an agency-specific Community Engagement Strategy. LPV asked me to prepare a document that reflected the diversity of people living with HIV in Victoria; that detailed how LPV was currently succeeding at engaging Victorians living with HIV; and that provided recommendations to improve the organisation’s relationship with the communities it seeks to represent.
In order for such a document to resonate with both the organisation and its membership, I knew that LPV’s Community Engagement Strategy had to be developed directly from community input. This was achieved by scheduling individual and small group consultations with 50 respondents representing five stakeholder groups: people living with HIV, members, volunteers, staff, and representatives from partner organisations.
Each consultation was an inspiring experience. Respondents provided an in-depth understanding of LPV, an appreciation for the organisation’s hard work, and tangible direction for the organisation to enhance its ability to act as an authentic representative of people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Respondents agreed that the organisation excelled in six main areas: 1) engagement of gay men living with HIV; 2) providing short-term wellness interventions; 3) communications; 4) advocating and campaigning for PLHIV ; 5) putting a public face to HIV; and 6) leadership within the HIV sector.
There were five areas where the organisation could improve: 1) engaging communities other than gay men living with HIV; 2) mediating between PLHIV and other support services; 3) clearly communicating how LPV is distinct from the Victorian AIDS Council and Positive Living Centre; 4) better accessibility of staff and office space; and 5) following through on great ideas.
With these responses and the organisation’s capacity in mind, I made the following recommendations for LPV to improve their community engagement by the end of their current 2014-2017 Strategic Plan: 1) develop service maps and referral pathways; 2) offer culturally-specific peer support; 3) conduct population health research; and 4) offer support outside of current office space and business hours.
The complete strategy can be be accessed here.
Andrew Eaton is a social worker with a focus on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV. He has worked for community-based HIV organisations in Canada, Swaziland and Australia.
Living Positive Victoria and our HIV sector partners are heading up to Shepparton in the Hume for an evening event focused on living with HIV. It’s a free, accessible, family friendly event aimed to engage the local community about current issues around HIV.
Special guest presenters will speak alongside members of the Positive Speakers’ Bureau about the latest in treatment advances, support and care, community dispensing, as well as new programs and services for people living with HIV, their friends and family. The event will be hosted by Victoria’s new commissioner for gender and sexuality, Rowena Allen (pictured).
Assistance is available for individuals wanting to travel from the within the Hume area or nearby to attend the event.
- The date: Thursday 8 October
- The venue: University of Melbourne Theatre, 49 Graham Street, Shepparton
For more information call (03) 9863 8733
These community forums for PLHIV , their friends, family and carers deliver HIV information in an entertaining chat-show format. Chin Wag shows are hosted by Nurse Nancy (Dr Kath Albury) and Australian superstar Vanessa Wagner (Tobin Saunders).
The show includes a panel of local healthcare workers, experts and service providers. Chin Wag shows are in high demand and are facilitated on request.
- The date: Monday 12 October
- The venue: Multicultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
For more info call us on (03) 9863 8733