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Vision peer support

We have a vision where people living with hiv have information and access to peer support.

A vision for systematic peer support

“The essence of peer support is to bring together people living with hiv in order to facilitate growth and learning. Peer support is based on a principle of sharing experiences and building rapport, in order to change lives and communities for the better.”

Today in Sweden there is no such thing as systematic peer support for people living with hiv. The support that people living with hiv manage to access is found through informal networks or contact with an hiv organization such as ours. Unfortunately, many people with hiv does not have informal networks to turn to, or know-how and sometimes courage to connect with and organisation. Its also hard to know how peer support can increase well being and quality of life, thus there is no incentive to search and look for support in the first place.


We have a vision where all people living with hiv are informed about the availability and potential positive benefits of peer support, when visiting their clinic. This is what we refer to as systematic peer support, as it ensures that everyone living with hiv gets a chance to access peer support.

In other countries, such as the UK, Canada and Australia peer support is already an established concept. Research has also shown that people receiving peer support has a diminished need for healthcare and increased well being. On a macro scale this results in peer support functioning as a cost reducing tool. We firmly believe that the possible gains, both for people living with hiv and the public, should be investigated and implemented at the soonest.

What is peer support?

Peer support implicates people sharing similar experiences meet and interacts in order to support each other in an empathic approach. In practice this could be when a person newly diagnosed with hiv meets another person whom have lived with hiv for already some time. Peer support aims to give both persons (in a one-to-one setting) or a group, a sense of belonging and support by being able to relate and understand to each others feelings and thoughts. This process increases camaraderie and promotes well being.

Why is peer support needed?

To be diagnosed with hiv comes with a whole host of challenges, be it medical, social, sexual or even legal. Hiv is still stigmatized and
associated to certain groups of people, which increases the risk for discrimination and self-stigmatization. Peer support strengthens individuals and brings together people to form supportive social networks. Peer support is key to address the unique combination of challenges living with hiv and in a meeting between peers, there is not only empathy and understanding, but also room for practical advice from someone who lived through the motions.

What does the research say about peer support?

Peer support is a tried and tested method that has been proven to improve quality of life, coping-mechanisms and overall health. The purpose of peer support might differ. Depending on the setting it can aim to ensure doctor visits and adherence to medicine, to focus more around social issues and overall well being. Regardless of the aim, research shows that peer support improves health outcomes on all levels. In our region, Region Skåne, peer support is used in the psychiatric healthcare where peers (former patients) are working with current patients, a project that in later years has been scaled up due to its success. To get a glimpse of the research, check out the literature list at the end of this page.

How does it work in other countries?

Peer support for people living with hiv were the healthcare and patient organizations cooperates to provide peer support is firmly established in a wide range of countries, among them the UK, Canada and Australia. Generally, in countries with a healthcare system with a large influence of insurances and government/state assistance programs there are also service organizations aiding people with needs to apply for help. These organizations might often also provide peer support in conjunction with their services.

What is required to establish peer support in Sweden?

Patient organizations, the hiv clinics and the healthcare bodies on a regional and national needs to cooperate. This cooperation needs to be built around the patient, and their needs. Since peer support would incur changes to how the care works today, a will to change is also required. In this aspect politics might also play a crucial role.

Does peer support incur additional costs for the healthcare system?

Peer support behöver inte ta några resurser i beaktande för hälso- och sjukvård. I Sverige har vi flera patientföreningar på både nationell och lokal nivå. Tvärtom visar studier att med systematiserad peer support, där alla ges möjlighet att få stöd, minskar vårdbehovet.

Literature list

  • Reportageboken, Peer support inom psykiatri och socialpsykiatri, Hans Nordén och Martin Falkman, Nationell Samverkan för psykisk hälsa, 2018
  • Peterson et al., 2012, “The Forms and Functions of Peer Social Support for People Living with HIV”
  • Dutcher et al., 2011, ‘‘Positive Examples’’: A Bottom-Up Approach to Identifying Best Practices in HIV Care and Treatment Based on the Experiences of Peer Educators
  • Rosenfeld D et al., 2018, https://www.aidsmap.com/news/sep-2018/peer-support-crucial-many-people-living-hiv
  • Positively UK – National Standards for Peer Support in HIV – Download här