Positive Voice Greece: Creating peer-to-peer networks and open infrastructure to help HIV/AIDS patients

“Positive Voice” is an association for People living with HIV/AIDS, founded in Athens in 2009 with the purpose of defending the rights of PLHIV, addressing the spread of HIV/AID and reducing its social and economic impacts in Greece. The association strives to ensure better prevention and renovation practices, care services and social care for patients and social groups who are sensitive to HIV. We promote social acceptance, solidarity, and support of these groups, addressing violations of dignity and their human rights, especially for those living in conservative societies. Additionally, we share ideas and human stories, offer free non clinical HIV / HBV and HCV tests in a very discrete way in our premises in Athens and Thessaloniki, named Checkpoints - you can read more here-, run annual events and campaigns for public awareness all over Greece and on the occasion of World Days of HIV/AIDS, Athens Pride or days dedicated to health prevention.

Our members’ main goal is to offer training, psychological and technical peer-to-peer support inside clinics, especially for patients who lack family support for whatever reasons. Moreover, we have programs for harm reduction to HIV-infected prisoners, transgender people, and drug users. Our “Red Umbrella” program is a non-scientific supportive/advisory center for sex workers, transgender people and all the vulnerable key affected population. 

“Positive Voice” participates in international and European networks for the support of HIV-vulnerable social groups. The association is an official partner with several international organizations and Institutes such as AIDS Action Europe, HIV Europe, IPPF, KETHEA-Ithaca, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and much more. In collaboration with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) of America, we have coordinated the development open of the infrastructure for prevention, information and medical tests for HIV, Hepatitis B-C, and Syphilis.

We are very proud of our devoted voluntary network which operates on prevention training, information sharing, precaution and empowerment of HIV-infected people and participating in training seminars in Greece and abroad. This volunteer network has been educated in order to support street work, such as the distribution of condoms to key affected and vulnerable populations in Thessaloniki. At the same time, a dedicated website and a Facebook pageTwitter account and Instagram account, communicate all information that needs to be transferred to potential beneficiaries.

#PositiveVoicegr serves students in public schools who have the opportunity to get informed and participate in training seminars about HIV/AIDS prevention. We also work with HIV-infected people who are involved in psychological support programs -in personal or team sessions- twice a week, conducted by psychologists on a voluntary basis, in order to establish a healthier functional framework.

Our vision is to find an appropriate place to create a Centre beside the existing “Thess Check Point”, for health rapid non clinical tests (HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, C). This is where citizens will be able to get information about the proper sexual practice. The Centre will put an emphasis on sex workers, transgender people, and drug addicts. Moreover, it will provide psychological support for relatives and mates of the patients, to help eliminate the stigma and discrimination of HIV-infected people.  We wish to develop a patient-centric approach based on peer-to-peer education among HIV-infected people, in order to provide psychological and advisory support to their co-patients. This can take the form, for example, of reading books to patients who suffer from chronic illnesses, defective eyesight etc.

According to our human resources network, we are seeking ways to support financially our volunteer specialists (psychologists, sociologists), who provide invaluable professional services to the members of our association. And we continue the actions of helping more HIV-infected people in order to find a job and keep being productive, sociable and creative.

*Alexander Tanaskidis is the direct representative of the Department of Northern Greece working at the headquarters of “Positive Voice” in the city of Thessaloniki supporting a big amount of members on a daily basis. He has a degree in Political Sciences Seminars, Degree in Journalism and a diploma in Social support and Social behavior. In this context, he had participated in several patients’ supportive programs in cancer clinics such as Happy Clown and Laughter Therapy. Furthermore, he is connected to many international networks, such as Artists against AIDS, the European AIDS Treatment Group, the Network for Low HIV prevalence  and he is currently an editor in a Greek social portal. In regards to his duties at “Positive Voice”, he works on media support, communication, fundraising and sponsoring, in collaboration with local and national mass media. Although he has participated in many training programs and seminars, he would like to improve his skills in the areas of empowerment, crisis, and behavioral management, which he considers significant educational fields in his job.

How do you know you are succeeding?

Hello @Positive-Voice, and welcome! I somehow managed to miss this post. You seem quite mature for a non profit and mobilizing volunteers consistently. I was always curious, is there a way to see if you’re effective in prevention and raising awareness outside the campaign outputs - for example how many people you’ve talked to, how many flyers were spread etc?

Are you seeing your most vulnerable populations in Thessaloniki more empowered over the years or is your job getting more and more difficult (for reasons that maybe don’t have anything to do with your organisation’s work)?