Changing Lives is one of twelve organisations to receive funding from Public Health England (PHE) to prevent HIV.

A total of £600,000 has been awarded to twelve organisations from the HIV Prevention Innovation Fund for 2017/18.

Changing Lives will be using this funding to support men who have experience of sex work, sexual exploitation, or ‘survival sex’ in Tyne and Wear.

Our established outreach team will capture local knowledge about male sex workers to inform and shape other sexual health services across Gateshead, Sunderland, and North Tyneside.

House of Lords - HIV prevention fund launch MAP

Laura McIntyre and Debra Cowey, from our North East outreach services, at the House of Lords for the official HIV Innovation Prevention Fund. As part of the launch, we were asked to deliver a short presentation on the project and what we hope to achieve. It was great to meet with other organisations and talk about possible partnership work and to share good practice.

Laura McIntyre, Service Manager at Changing Lives, said:

“We use an assertive outreach approach to support men to access services. Men have reported that they often feel unable to talk about their experiences due to stigma, and particularly when men identify as heterosexual but are exchanging sex with other men for survival – they tend to avoid services and become chronically excluded.

We use the term ‘double discrimination’ in the project a lot, there can be more barriers for men to talk to services about the type of sexual relationships they are having due to their sexual identity, on top of other multiple and complex needs.

This funding will allow Changing Lives to create a new health navigator role that will focus on encouraging men who exchange sex to talk to sexual health providers to ensure the correct support is being offered. Many of the men we support have never had any sexual health screening and are unsure of their HIV status – we are not specialists in sexual health or HIV but are expert at engaging with hidden groups of people who require support”

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) remains a public health concern despite major advances in treatment and reductions in diagnosis. In 2015 an estimated 101,000 people in the UK have HIV with 13,500 unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing on the virus to others. The majority of people living with HIV in the UK are men, with 69% of all cases of HIV being men.

Commenting on the Innovation Fund and the winning projects, Public Health Minister Steve Brine said:

“Now in its third year the HIV Prevention Fund continues to foster local innovation projects, which aim to tackle HIV in more targeted and impactful ways, especially for those most at risk. The twelve projects announced today will boost local action and spread best practice to further reduce rates of HIV across the whole country.”

Changing Lives has been supporting people involved in sex work for ten years in the North East of England, with our established model of care being replicated across our services in Doncaster and Wolverhampton too.

Our programme of support was designed in partnership with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTWNHS) and Northumbria Police.

The National HIV Prevention Innovation Fund is funded by the allocation from the Department of Health to Public Health England for HIV prevention and sexual health promotion. This is the third year of the innovation fund in which PHE have awarded funding to a total of 32 projects.