In 1996 Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy (HAART) was introduced and the life expectancy of people with HIV (PLHIV) improved dramatically. Gradually, there became a perception that the HIV epidemic was solved and an assumption that the need for organisations such as BGF would diminish.
However, the reality is that BGF’s workload has increased. The PLHIV cohort is ageing and their circumstances are becoming more complex. The average age of PLHIV will be over 50 by the end of this decade. This is reflected in BGF’s client base with more than 43% of our clients already over 50 years of age.
Family and community play a vital role in survival. This has been known in the Australian community since the early days of white settlement. The most vulnerable PLHIV often have no familial support in their lives and are consequently socially isolated, which expose people to greater risk of adverse physical and mental health outcomes.
BGF acts in place of family or friends for more than half our clients, keeping them connected, supported, and well.
Many of BGF’s clients experience premature ageing issues, poor physical and mental health, and have endured many years living below the poverty line. Additionally, many no longer have the capacity to re-join the workforce or return to study. This affects access to housing, health services and nutrition, all of which are prerequisites to good health.
Over the past decade, BGF has taken a more holistic, person-centred approach to service delivery using casework and case management models and is in the midst of a further evolution of this development. No longer just a provider of financial assistance, BGF undertakes a range of support and interventions that address issues of long-term social and economic poverty.
The provision of these services (as pictured at right) has a positive impact on the health of our clients through early intervention, medication adherence, supported accommodation and housing solutions, advocacy with medical practitioners for PLHIV with complex health issues, and building greater awareness and skills in managing HIV health.
Rebuilding life skills and individual capacity are recognised anecdotally in the context of improved social outcomes, as are the significant savings to the health system.