A Summer Camp Connecting Teenagers Living With HIV

Emerald Life this week supported a summer camp for teenagers living with HIV in the UK. 

Being a teenager is tough. Growing up with all the pressures of education, relationships and becoming an adult can be overwhelming. But what about the 1,000 young people in the UK that are living with HIV? So often, teenagers living with HIV in the UK find themselves isolated, alone and unable to discuss their status with their friends for fear of rejection or discrimination. Feeling the need to conceal your status can often lead to not keeping up with medication or attending hospital checkups, and this in turn can have a knock-on effect on health. 

To help tackle this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has supported a five-day residential camp for over 80 HIV positive teenagers this summer called ‘Freedom to Be’. The camp is run annually by an organisation called CHIVA – the Children’s HIV Association.

Bringing together 13-17 year olds from all over the country, the camp provides an opportunity to meet other young people, increase self-esteem and improve understanding of how to live well with HIV. The ethos of the ‘Freedom to Be’ camp is that of a safe, open space where young people are able to feel comfortable in their own skin and be completely accepted.

An attendee of the camp stated that it, “Gave me a chance to break from the outside world and really connect with my inner emotions.”

By taking part in group discussions around HIV disclosure, rights and awareness, young people are empowered to open up about their status. Confidence-boosting activities such as outward bound courses, film making classes and art workshops are also available over the course of the residential stay.

Another young person spoke about how the experience had improved their self-esteem saying, “I have the ability to be social, be open to learning new things and push myself to do what I once said I couldn’t do.”

Emerald supports EJAF’s belief that only by making sure no one is left behind, can we get closer to achieving an AIDS-free future.

Emerald is proud to support an initiative like this. EJAF’s offer to us to fund the CHIVA summer residential camp was an opportunity we simply could not turn down. We are pleased the young people attending the camp at the start of August have access to the professional support CHIVA is known for, but vitally, also access to each other. This helps to deal with the issues of isolation that teenagers feel – a problem only exacerbated by being HIV+ Steve Wardlaw, chairman, Emerald Life.

Emerald’s hope is that by supporting projects like the summer camp for teenagers living with HIV,  young people who otherwise might have felt isolated or forgotten about have the opportunity to better understand their HIV status, aiding them to go on and live a long and healthy life, free from stigma and with the confidence to succeed. 

To support EJAF or to find out more about the work they do, please visit http://ejaf.org