The AWARE workshop for me was an innovative and comfortable way for me to learn how to live, rather than survive with HIV. The team at QPP really went above and beyond to cover all factors to help each individual regardless of their age, ethnicity or background to get the support and information needed to live more comfortably with HIV.
At the beginning of the workshop it is clearly explained to each of us about the importance of privacy. Whether it applies to you or not there is no tagging of others on social media or talk of another participant to anyone outside of the room. The AWARE workshop really allowed me to drop the barrier I had put up. QPP also make sure that there is someone there other than the person facilitating the workshop if you need any one-on-one time. I only wish I had known about this safe place to connect with other people on this level at the time of my diagnosis.
I was grateful that you were not expected to verbally participate in the workshop unless you felt comfortable in doing so. The workshop really was designed for every newly diagnosed person and that was clear to see when looking around the group. Some of us got what we needed by listening, some by talking and sharing our stories or experiences. Others found it a suitable setting to ask questions, and have conversations that they may have felt uncomfortable asking in other settings.
When I was listening to other people’s battles with their diagnosis or disclosure or even stigma they had faced, it reminded me of a life lesson that I had forgotten and that is, no matter what the situation here are always others that are going through similar motions. For so many months of thinking that no one understood what I was going through and that sense of loneliness that withdrew me from myself and everyone around me, it was great to have this opportunity to realise that I wasn’t alone. There are people out there that do understand, that can relate to what I have gone through and more importantly there are people who care. As I talked to another participant in the group he had expressed similar views when he had said “Secrecy breeds shame. Meeting in solidarity with other similar experiences made me feel less sorry for myself somehow.” That feeling is something I will never be able to put into context very well, but a feeling that is imprinted in my memories.
Before the workshop I thought I knew all there was to know in regards to HIV, the law, treatment options and ways to disclose to potential partners, friends or family. Again I guess another life lesson I forgot was
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama.
After the team went through these in more depth not only did I feel like I knew more but I felt like I was 100% armed with the facts. Before this workshop some of the myths and misconceptions that people used as ammunition to target me I’ve been able to flip it around and actually give them some education. The workshop has really helped me when I encounter stigma in the community.
The thing that stood out for me and had a huge impact on my view of QPP and the AWARE Workshop, was not in the information and support that was offered to all of us but in the way that I could see the genuine care and consideration delivered by the facilitator and team to make a difference. We have all been to that doctor’s surgery where you tell the doctor your problem and although you get the correct information or medication you wonder if they genuinely care, this feeling is definitely something that you will not feel while attending the AWARE workshop at QPP.
Morning tea, lunch and afternoon snacks were also provided during the breaks by the team, so other than the support and information and friends you could gain, know that the least you’ll receive is your nutrition for the day.
Another great thing that has come from the workshop for me was the meeting of new friends, it has been great to catch up with people and make new memories with other people.
When talking to others who had attended the AWARE Workshop over coffee they had these things to say about it.
“The aware program gave me a sense that I would be okay, I could continue to live my life the way I choose.”
“The significance of the aware workshop for me was primarily that I got to meet other poz guys. It gave me a place to tell my story. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
QPP no longer hold AWARE Workshops but we would highly recommend contacting our Peer Navigation Team for more information on 1800 636 241 or 07 3013 5555.