Sexual health case study: Aylah

19 July 2021

Aylah is a single woman. When we reconnected with her in March 2020 through our 1 to 1 support calls, she explained she had recently experienced severe domestic violence and she could no longer stay where she was living.

Lost in the system

Aylah also has significant psychological problems relating to physical and sexual abuse suffered in childhood and further trauma experienced in adulthood. Aylah’s housing situation was leading to extremely high mental health and physical risk.  Aylah had been requesting to move out of the area for a long time, she wanted to rebuild her life, feel safe and reduce her exposure to triggers of her abuse.  

She spent over a year attempting to advocate for herself and coordinate across the council, her GP, her clinics and with lawyers to be able to move but was getting nowhere. She was feeling ‘lost in the system’, starting to give up hope, and expressed suicidal ideation.

Accessing help through the pandemic

Aylah was also highly vulnerable to Covid-19 due to her physical health issues. Due to her uncertain housing situation this had led to antiretroviral nonadherence and to a very low CD4 count. Previous incidents of pneumonia had left her immune system compromised, and she was especially vulnerable to new infections which could have been life threatening. Aylah’s GP was also in another borough and she could not access any medication at this time. Additional debilitating physical health conditions would often leave her having to spend long periods on bed and having to use aids, including a wheelchair to move around.

1 to 1 support

Aylah was referred to the casework team and a member of the team supported her both across 1 to 1 support calls and through casework, as it was quickly recognised that there needed to be an integrated approach to address her emotional and social needs.

With her consent we contacted her social worker and clinical psychologist, who had been working with Aylah for a long time. With his help, we set up a professionals’ meeting with all those working with Aylah to have a coordinated approach to urgently respond and advocate for her needs.   From these biweekly meetings, Body and Soul’s specific role became to advocate with the housing team at the council and assist Aylah in correspondence with her housing lawyers as she was finding it too stressful to do alone.

Starting to build her ife again 

After 3 months of close coordination, we successfully managed to advocate for Aylah to be moved and in the summer of 2020, she moved into a new home in Waltham Forest where she feels safe and can start to build a life again.

Now she has moved into Waltham Forest, the professionals meeting continues to meet regularly to assist her in getting set up in her new home. We have further advocated for additional support to allow her to manage in her home with regards to her physical health needs and for the things that make a house a home, including the application for a grant for much needed furniture. We have also helped her register with a GP in her area so she can now also get the medication for her mental and physical health. We are in the process of helping her register at Homerton hospital HIV clinic where we have direct contact with the social work team so we can continue to provide a coordinated response.

Body and Soul

Body and Soul have been a consistent presence for Aylah throughout this time and we have continued to provide Aylah with bi-monthly calls to check in on her well-being and ensure she has a support network around her.

Aylah wrote us this email at the end of September 2020:

“I say all that to say that your support means a lot to me and has given me some of my voice back...As challenging as things may be, I now have a place I can call home...I am a big advocate of childhood trauma I love that now Body & Soul are now focusing a lot more on this. Because the adults we end up being despite all the pain and quite possibly Being re-triggered later on in life really takes a lot of anyone even those who support us...Thank you for giving me the space and honestly your energy your energy.”

Quotes from teens in our HIV programme

“I have learnt to use calming music when I am feeling low and sad.  The volunteers helped me to find a relaxing playlist on YouTube that I like.”

 “Your sessions are the only place I can express myself, the only place I go where I feel confident and can be myself.  Without it I feel lonely and alone with HIV.”

Quotes from adults in our HIV programme

“You (Body & Soul) gave me the confidence to change and to grow and to believe in myself.”

“I look forward to this parenting group every Monday. It keeps me going. Seeing you all and now it feels like we are so close, like we are all sitting around a table eating and talking together, doesn’t seem like we’re in our separate homes. These zoom groups are connecting us all more deeply”.

“I can see lockdown now as a blessing for me and my son to be together. The support from the group has helped me to reflect on how I was such a worrier before. I have had to budget and improvise, create new recipes with the food I have. The week we shared recipes and budgeting ideas was so helpful. I love us sharing recipes and makes me look forward to seeing you all. And it’s so good to laugh. It doesn’t feel like we are all in our own homes. It feels like we are all sitting around a table, sharing food and drink and talking”.