Sexual health case study: Leila

19 July 2021

Leila approached us from a women’s refuge. She had come to the UK from North Africa following marriage to her husband.

The relationship turned out to be emotionally and physically abusive and Leila eventually escaped the home and fled to a refuge. It was at the refuge that she took an HIV test, as she had been have reoccurring ill health issues, and found out that she was HIV positive.

Positive East

When Leila first came to Positive East she was wanting some emotional and practical support.

We realised that Leila had a poor understanding of HIV. Leila had been in such a state of shock when she was diagnosed she was not able to digest information that was given to her at the time. The Peer Support Worker who saw Leila, themselves HIV positive, talked her through issues such as HIV transmission and treatment. They also explored together how starting and adhering to treatment would mean she could lead a full and normal life. The Peer Support Worker introduced Leila to the concept about U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), if you have an undetectable HIV viral load you cannot pass HIV to your sexual partners.

Planning for the future

The sessions with the Peer Support Worker provided Leila with the space to explore her fears and helped her to start planning for the future.

Leila was also very isolated as her husband who hadn’t allowed her out of the house or to make friends and so she did not know anyone in London.  We highlighted to Leila our support groups and suggested that she may like to attend. We reassured her that everyone present was HIV positive and that people who attend are all bound by our confidentiality policy. 

Leila started attending the support groups and built an independent friendship network.  Leila also started to access support from our specialist psychology service (ReAssure) for women who have experienced trauma and she reports that this is helping dealing with her experience of domestic abuse.

Working with our serivces to provide support

Our welfare benefits team supported Leila with accessing her relevant social security benefits. 

She still found it a struggle to live on the amount as she was only left with £75 a month after paying her rent and bills. 

We supported Leila to access Foodchain who provide groceries  and some hardship funds. 

Leila enrolled on a course to get some training to enable her to get a job that would improve her financial situation and enable her to get a home of her own.  Unfortunately the Pandemic meant the course was cancelled. 

Leila continues to receive peer support and counselling from Positive East and has been offered continuous support from Food Chain.  We are hopeful that as the lockdown eases Leila will be able to continue her path to sustained independence.