The integrated sexual health service has created an HIV Pledge for local organisations and individuals to sign up to.
- HIV Pledge created to encourage organisations to sign up to push to end transmissions of HIV by 2030
- Resource pack developed to help stakeholders feel confident about discussing HIV and challenging discrimination
- Social media campaign run to raise awareness about PrEP among the public.
Derbyshire is a large and rural county, creating challenges engaging people with sexual health services and HIV prevention.
To address this, the integrated sexual health service for Derby City and Derbyshire County Councils provided by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (DCHS) has created an HIV Pledge for local organisations and individuals to sign up to.
It is aimed at developing a partnership-approach across the county to work together to eliminate HIV transmissions by 2030.
Since the pledge was launched last year around 30 individuals and organisations have signed up including the council’s education improvement service, voluntary sector groups and nurse leads and senior management at DCHS.
Marketing and Communications Lead for Sexual Health Rachel Coulton said: “We are delighted with the enthusiasm being shown. But we want this to be just the start – it would be great to get the private sector involved too and some of our big local employers. It is only by working together we can achieve the 2030 goal.”
Giving stakeholders confidence and skills
In signing the pledge, organisations promise to encourage their staff to talk openly and compassionately about HIV, challenge stigma and discrimination, learn about prevention including PrEP and develop HIV champions in their organisations.
To help achieve this, DCHS has developed a PrEP resource pack for stakeholders with the help of the consultancy Social Change.
It includes a range of assets, including flyers and posters and email signatures promoting PrEP along with advice on how to raise questions and talk about HIV. This includes tailored advice depending on what age groups are being addressed.
Training is also offered by a sexual health promotion practitioner to stakeholders who want learn more. A wide range of professionals have received training, including school nurses, drug and alcohol staff and voluntary sector workers who support sex workers and the gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men community. There are also regular network events with the most recent seeing more than 100 people attending.
Ms Coulton said: “The challenge we face is that there are a lot of organisations that do not necessarily think it is their business to raise the topic of HIV. What we have set out to do is give them the confidence and skills to initiate conversations and where to sign post people to help. There is still a bit of a stigma and image that HIV is the death sentence it was in the 1980s.”
How social media campaign boosted awareness
Social Change was also employed to develop social media marketing campaign aimed at the general public specifically on PrEP. This ran during a four-month period last year across a range of platforms, including Instagram and Meta.
It used a combination of social media assets and images with slogans such as “Stay PrEPared” and “Don’t Sweat It, PrEP It” alongside polls and surveys that were designed both to find out about people’s knowledge of the therapy as well as spark online debate.
The impact was impressive. The paid-for Google ads have had more than 10,000 impressions, while the service’s PrEP pages on its website had more than 5,700 users – 10 times more than the previous four months. Take up of PrEP has also increased by 23 per cent over the past year.
Ms Coulton said: “The Social Change work really help raise the profile of PrEP. We know the GBMSM community is pretty knowledgeable, but that is not the case for other groups so while we are trying to develop our partnership work with stakeholders this piece of work with the public was really important too. We have to get the message out there that early diagnosis and testing is essential alongside prevention.”
To build on the higher public profile, the service’s health promotion van has started being taken out to events with clinical staff on board. There was a week-long roadshow at the end of last year where staff were able to offer testing and talk about PrEP. It went out to market towns across the county and city.
“We want to do more of that and we already have more roadshows coming up,” said Ms Coulton. “We want to make it much easier for people to access services.
“At the moment we only offer PrEP from our two main clinics in Derby and Chesterfield, but we have a network of satellite clinics that it would be good to offer it from. We could also set up pop-up clinics in the community, such as a centre for the LGBT community. If we are going to increase awareness, we have to also ensure we have got the services in the right locations to respond to demand.
“That is not easy in an area like Derbyshire with its large rural areas. But by working with our community and targeting resources at where they are needed the most we can make sure we make the most of the services we have.”