Programming Connection

Peer Navigation Services 

Positive Living Society of BC, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver STOP Project
Vancouver, British Columbia
2013

Introduction

Peers show what is possible

While the type of HIV services available has changed since the early days of the HIV epidemic in Canada, programs like Peer Navigation Services in Vancouver show us that peers are often an important part of effective initiatives.

Peer Navigation Services is a partnership between the Positive Living Society of British Columbia (PLBC), the John Ruedy Immunodeficiency Clinic (IDC) at St. Paul’s Hospital and the Vancouver STOP Project. Peer navigators offer the expertise of professionally trained peers to people newly diagnosed with HIV and those who may have been living with HIV for a long time but who are currently not accessing healthcare. The peers use their lived experience with HIV to support the client in understanding that they can live long, fulfilled and healthy lives with HIV. Peer navigators also support clients to improve their ability to manage their own health and care.

Peer Navigation Services is a unique partnership between a clinic and the community. The program maintains two offices and offers peer navigation in two distinct settings: one in a hospital and one in a community organization (PLBC). Peer navigators working out of the community office typically work on outreach. At the clinic, peer navigators work alongside healthcare professionals, bringing their knowledge and training into the hospital/clinic setting.

Working from their office adjacent to the waiting room at the IDC, the peer navigators are able to connect with people living with HIV at a time when they are often most vulnerable and overwhelmed. The outreach peer navigators work closely with a clinical outreach team (the STOP Outreach Team, which is made up of nurses, social workers and other outreach workers) to connect with people living with HIV in the community who may not have adequate social and medical supports to benefit from HIV treatment.

These peers help to stabilize all clients, regardless of where they meet them, by connecting them to supports and helping them to navigate the world of HIV care and treatment, which can be complex. They show that using lived experience to help others is key to making a difference.