How To Start An HIV Support Group

Creating an HIV support group can be an excellent method of getting the emotional support you need during this difficult time while helping others. It is not necessary to be HIV positive in order to start a support group; you must simply want to help those with HIV cope with the illness, make friends, and continue to live their lives. Starting an HIV support group can be fairly simple depending on the complexity of the group and the resource available.

Work With Local Organizations

In cases when there is a local organization that focuses on working on those with HIV, or even a clinic who provides testing and treatment, it can help to work with them. In some cases, the organization may already have a support group, preventing the need from creating one. In others, they will be able to assist you in creating one, offering their resources. You may even discover that they can offer a location, a facilitator, funding, or additional resources.

Find A Facilitator

The next step is to determine who will lead the support group. Consider whether prefer to participate in the support group; if you would like to benefit from it yourself, find a different facilitator. If, however, you would simply like to help those with HIV, then you can consider leading the group yourself. Keep in mind, however, that facilitating a group like this can be challenging so the leader should either have experience running other support groups, in the mental health field, or in a similar area.

Structure The Meetings

There are many types of support groups, making it necessary to determine the structure of the group before officially beginning. Consider whether you would prefer to set an agenda for each meeting or let the group members determine how each meeting develops as it unfolds. It is also possible to have an initial support group meeting in which you, the facilitator, and members plan which topics will be covered in various meetings and create a calendar.

Determine Location And Organization

The final step before beginning the support group is to determine where it will be held, how often it meets, when it meets, and some general organization issues, such as snacks, transportation, rules, costs, membership, and more. This involves considering the type of people you would like the support group to appeal to. Those appealing to HIV positive people with low incomes will probably want to offer free meetings that are open to new members. If, however, you wish to appeal to those that have a hard time building trust and confidentiality with others, then you may prefer to create a smaller group which only welcomes new members at predetermined times.

Create The Proper Atmosphere

During the first meeting, ensure that you create the proper atmosphere for the HIV support group. People want to have confidentiality in support groups and to be able to talk without being judged or feeling embarrassed2. The goal when starting an HIV support group should be able to create a group free from judgement that can help members share experiences, receive emotional support, and assist with any other needs of the members.