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Buddying up for mental health

By Lisa Tomney, Manager, Clinical Services

The BUDDY Volunteer program is the key existing volunteer program which matches a Volunteer with a person living with HIV (PLHIV), who may benefit from the additional contact that the BUDDY Volunteer can provide.

In days gone by, Volunteer Care Teams were an essential service providing home care support, transport and palliative care support. Today, the remaining BUDDY program provides essential contacts with clients who may be in need of some emotional support or to help break down any social isolation they may be experiencing.

In the lead up to Men’s Health Week, I caught up with a BUDDY to find out more about his role.

What motivated you to become a volunteer for the WA AIDS Council, and specifically being a part of the Clinical Services BUDDY program?

I wished to become a volunteer with the WA AIDS Council because of the positive feedback I had received from people who had previous experience volunteering and others who had accessed the services. I felt that the organisation was aligned with my own values, supporting people in the community who may be at risk of discrimination, isolation and further mental health issues spurred on by the social stigmas.

I chose to be a part of the BUDDY program when applying for a volunteer position because I wanted to provide support for someone living with an HIV diagnosis, having an awareness of the marginalisation that PLHIV can experience. I also read that the organisation would find a suitable buddy that shared commonalities. This particularly grabbed my attention as I wished to spend time with someone who shared my passion for all things creative!

As a BUDDY, you are working as one-on-one support for a person living with HIV. What do you find most rewarding about your role?

What I find most rewarding about my role is how I get to spend a few hours a fortnight hanging out with someone who has now become a close friend. We have been catching up every fortnight or so, visiting art galleries, watching movies and always enjoying a meal together. I have been studying for the past few years as well as working part-time, and I often forget to enjoy the simple things I used to do. My buddy has inspired me to start painting again, as well as begin photography. They have a wonderful sense of humour, and offer honest feedback when I ask their opinion about anything I need to share.

What positive outcomes/benefits do you believe the BUDDY program and your role provides for PLHIV?

I believe the BUDDY program allows individuals living with an HIV diagnosis to connect with someone that they may not have an opportunity otherwise to meet. I do not think there would have been a time or place that my buddy and I would have been able to swap details and meet up for a cuppa and convo. I believe that PLHIV can greatly benefit from this program as it invites someone who has the intention of providing social support, allowing for a reciprocal, caring relationship to develop, and another person one can look forward to spending non-judgemental time with. I would like to hope that my buddy would feel that our experiences together have been fun, enlivening and memory-making - as they have been for me.

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Our Mission

To minimise the impact and further transmission of HIV, other blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. To reduce social, legal and policy barriers which prevent access to health information and effective support and prevention services.