Set up in 1997, our exercise referral scheme for people living with HIV is now almost two decades old. As the only programme of this type in London, we take referrals from clinics, charities and local councils from all over the capital and have helped over 17,000 people.
How and when did Positive Health Start?
The Positive Health Programme was started in 1997 here at the Central YMCA by Deborah Potts and Susan Warner. At the time there was no link between when patients were discharged from hospital or physiotherapy and continuing with some form of supported physical activity. The programme is important as it gives participants the opportunity to engage in exercise to help them manage their physical and mental health longterm.
Do you work with other organisatons?
We are very fortunate to receive funding from Camden/Islington Clinical commissioning group which helps to part fund the programme.
Who can get on the Positive Health programme?
The programme is available to anyone living with HIV who would benefit from help with being more active or starting exercise with support and guidance.
Can you tell us what the programme covers?
The 12 week exercise programme provides participants with support in the gym, opportunities to try exercise classes and swimming.
There are three supervised gym sessions every week for which one must be attended. Positive Health members have exclusive access to a range of therapies including reflexology, sports/holistic massages, hypnotherapy, Life Coaching and energy healing.
Our Nutritionist will be able to provide you with general nutritional advice and will look at ways in which you can optimise your nutritional intake in relation to your individual needs.
Social activities include a monthly tea and chat, two social support groups every month, evening trips such as the theatre and bowling. A yearly summer picnic, a weekend away and a Christmas gathering.
Who will participants be trained by/working with?
The programme is run by Victoria Brown, Becky O’Gorman and Teresa Waite. All our instructors who work on the programme have had training in working with patients who are HIV+ and have a sound knowledge of HIV medications and their side effects. We see participants for their initial sessions and for the supervised gym sessions. We are also lucky to have a team of qualified exercise referral volunteers to help on the gym floor, to teach classes and to provide therapy and support sessions. Many of our volunteers have come through the programme and now provide support for the programme.
How do you get recommended for the programme?
To be referred on to the programme you would need you GP, HIV consultant or clinic nurse to fill out our referral form, which gives us your medical history. Once the form has been completed we will invite you in to the gym for an information session to explain how the programme works and to have a look around the gym. It is also an opportunity to ask questions and to meet other new people starting on the programme.
You work with lots of the HIV clinics, can you tell us about that?
We accept referrals from all HIV clinics in London, no matter which borough you live in. Many of the doctors, nurses, dieticians and physios understand the importance of exercise and activity for people living with HIV and promote and support our programme. For example we have a strong relationship with Mortimer Market, who have have been referring to us for 20 years and whose Patient Reps have all come through the programme.
Is fitness important for people who are HIV?
Yes. To manage side effects from medication such as promoting muscle mass, managing lipodystrophy, aid better sleep, increase appetite, mental health, social interaction and keeping as healthy as possible.