Peer support in an outpatient clinic for people living with human immunodeficiency virus: a qualitative study of service users’ experiences
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionBMC Health Services Research. 2022, 22 (1), . 10.1186/s12913-022-07958-8
Background: Although human immunodefciency virus (HIV) has become a manageable condition with increasing life expectancy, people living with HIV (PLHIV) are still often isolated from society due to stigma and discrimination. Peer support provides one avenue for increased social support. Given the limited research on peer support from the perspective of PLHIV, this study explored their experiences of peer support organised by healthcare professionals in an outpatient clinical setting. Methods: The study used a qualitative, descriptive research design for an in-depth understanding of peer support provided to PLHIV in the context of outpatient clinics. Healthcare professionals contributed to the recruitment of 16 participants. We conducted in-depth interviews about participants’ experiences of peer support, and performed a directed content analysis of the data. Further, we sorted the data into pre-determined categories. Results: The pre-determined categories constituted attachment, social integration, an opportunity for nurturance, reassurance of worth, reliable alliance, and guidance. The identifed themes were: gained emotional support, disclosure behaviour allowed garnering of emotional support, non-disclosure promoted the need to meet a peer, experienced a sense of belonging, activated an opportunity for mutual support, means to re-establish belief in one’s own worth, perceived a positive afrmation of disease management, facilitated dialogue about disease management, the outpatient clinic as a safe place, and a setting for fexible, individualised support. Conclusions: This study highlights the peer support experiences of PLHIV in the context of outpatient clinics. The participants’ experiences align with previous fndings, showing that peer support contributes to mutual emotional support between peers. This is particularly important in cultures of non-disclosure where PLHIV experience inter‑ sectional stigma. Additionally, our results show outpatient clinics to be supportive surroundings for facilitating peer support, ensuring confdentiality in peer support outreach. Therefore, peer support contributes positively to individu‑ alising outpatient clinic services to meet the changing needs of PLHIV.