HART was originally formed at a time when HIV was inevitably leading to an AIDS diagnosis and for many, severe illness and death. People with HIV faced extreme hostility and prejudice and medical interventions were very limited. Angry and frustrated at the lack of understanding about how HIV was affecting people, HART was formed to offer information, advice and support for those living with the virus.
Slowly we grew from peoples living rooms to our own space. Bids for funding from public sector organisations and community fundraising enabled us to establish formally in our office accommodation. Fifteen years ago we purchased our very own building which has become our home and centre of operations.
In this time much has changed. HIV is no longer the automatic route to declining health. The medical therapies have become so sophisticated and effective that most people who are living with the virus lead full and active lives. However, there is still no cure and therapies can cause severe side effects or even fail. There is also a remaining stigma surrounding the virus and many people face fear and discrimination. The therapies are for life and whilst effective can cause other long term conditions – think of it as a lifetime of chemotherapy on a daily basis.
It is vital that people living with HIV are able to access welfare rights, benefits and good housing. Likewise there is a need for good nutrition, social support and the reduction of issues which cause stress and social exclusion. Many people living with HIV do not have access to some of the opportunities we might take for granted. Internet access, a night out with friends, a trip to somewhere different…. these may all seem like small things but when they are denied they start to seriously affect the quality of life and involvement within local communities individual experience, leading to a decline in both physical and mental health.
This is why we are here. We know how difficult it can be to live with HIV. We understand the physical and emotional impact HIV has on people’s lives. We exist solely to alleviate these pressures and ensure to the best of our ability that our members feel supported within their local communities.