As children are being told at a younger age that they live with HIV, CHIVA wanted to ensure that those living in more isolated geographical settings have the opportunity to meet others of their age.

In June, CHIVA started a new group for under 12s (yet to be named) to offer the opportunity to learn more about HIV and have a safe place to talk openly. In the first meeting, held in Bristol, we looked at understanding HIV through games and then discussed ‘private information’, what that means and how children feel about not being able to tell other people about their HIV. In the afternoon we went to the Bristol Science museum. The group aims to provide opportunities for younger children with HIV to build friendships with each other as well as learn about and understand their HIV better. One of the group facilitators is a young adult who has also grown up with HIV, it was really inspiring for the young children to be able to ask her questions about her own experiences as a child.

June is also when our volunteer activities begin. In June we held our camp volunteer training. Our annual support camp is the biggest direct support event we hold in the year. We take up to 100 children and young people with HIV from across the UK and Ireland to a residential support camp for a week in August.

We rely on the support of volunteers to enable camp to happen, and so each year recruit two teams; volunteer key workers who have allocated young people to support throughout their week at camp, help them with their medication, make sure they get to their workshops and activities and also provide emotional support, and our camp leader team; young adults aged 18-24 who have also grown up with HIV. They come to camp to provide support, inspiration and practical help at camp. Our training programme is critical preparation for these roles. The young camp leaders do an accredited youth work course, which is residential for four days, and the volunteer key workers have their training at the same time for two days over the weekend.

Our volunteer team for us is an amazing collective of people who come together each year to support children and young people at camp. Many of our key workers also live with HIV and return each year to volunteer at camp. For some this will be their 7th year volunteering at camp!

One of the benefits of this ongoing support we see is the building of a community of people who support young people growing up with HIV. Camp leaders previously attended camp as participants, and many now go on to become volunteer key workers.

We now have 71 young people confirmed to attend camp in August and are busy at our office processing application forms, we will fill all our places for certain as over 120 applied to come! It’s travel planning time too as every young person who comes to camp has their travel organised and booked by CHIVA. Abi is working away booking trains, planes and coaches to ensure every child has their travel booked to get them to camp. We also rely on a network of professionals across the UK to volunteer to help with travel, getting a young person to a train station or to a coach pick up point, escorting mini buses and coaches to camp. Camp wouldn’t be possible without all this fantastic volunteer support!