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Leila approached us from a women’s refuge. She had come to the UK from North Africa after marrying her husband.
The relationship turned out to be emotionally and physically abusive. Leila eventually escaped the home and fled to a refuge. She had been having recurring health issues, so took an HIV test, and discovered she was HIV positive.
When Leila first came to Positive East she wanted some emotional and practical support.
We realised that Leila had a poor understanding of HIV. Leila had been in a state of shock when she was diagnosed. This left her unable to digest the information 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 sticking 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.
The sessions with the Peer Support Worker gave Leila space to explore her fears and helped her to start planning for the future.
Leila was also very isolated. Her husband hadn’t allowed her out of the house or to make friends, so she did not know anyone in London. We told Leila about our support groups and suggested she may like to come along. We reassured her that everyone present was HIV positive and that people who attend are all bound by our confidentiality policy.
Leila started going to the support groups and built an independent friendship network. Leila also began to access support from our specialist psychology service (ReAssure) for women who have experienced trauma. She says that this is helping dealing with her experience of domestic abuse.
Our welfare benefits team supported Leila to access social security benefits.
She still found it a struggle to live, as she was only left with £75 a month after paying her rent and bills.
We then helped Leila to access Foodchain who provide groceries and some hardship funds.
Leila enrolled on a course to get some training to help her get a job, improve her financial situation get a home of her own. Unfortunately the course was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Leila continues to receive peer support and counselling from Positive East and has been offered continuous support from Food Chain. We hope that as lockdown eases Leila will be able to continue her path to sustained independence.