Armed with skills and information, persons living with HIV/AIDS are often the best communicators of HIV prevention and harm reduction information. Individuals who have already faced an HIV or AIDS diagnosis, navigated the health and social service systems, and found ways to survive and thrive can be important sources of inspiration and support for those just beginning to deal with their HIV status, or searching for tools to improve their quality of life within the context of HIV/AIDS. This process also enhances the lives of the Peer Educators themselves, reducing their isolation while reinforcing their own risk reduction efforts.
The Alliance Peer Educators include persons at-risk persons new to or struggling with recovery from substance use, as well as those more seasoned in the recovery process. This extensive program recognizes the unique benefits of the peer education model for participant and Peer Educator alike.
The Alliance’s Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP) addresses the complex needs of HIV-positive people in recovery from drug or alcohol use, PREP provides recovering substance users with intensive training and relapse prevention services, including counseling, education, crisis intervention, and risk reduction skills development. An intensive ten-week training course enables PREP participants to perform various educational outreach activities. By harnessing the power of peer mentoring to help others initiate and maintain healthy behaviors, PREP empowers people who are coping with the dual illnesses of HIV and addiction to sustain long-time recovery from alcohol and substance use, and to take back control over their lives.
The Alliance is proud to be one of the first Peer Training Centers recognized by the New York State AIDS Institute (AI). Designated Peer Training Centers are authorized to provide a variety of trainings associated with AI Peer Certification program for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions.
The Alliance offers the following AIDS Institute training courses included in the requirements for peer certification:
- AIDS Institute Pre-Certification Peer Worker Training Workshop
- Sex, Gender, and HIV
- Introduction to HIV, STIs and Viral Hepatitis
- HIV Peer Worker Role in Patient Navigation
- LGBT Cultural Competency
- Peer Workers: Promoting Primary Care and Treatment Adherence for HIV
- Opioid Overdose Prevention
- Role of Non-clinicians in Promoting PrEP
- HIV/HCV Co-infection
You can sign up for any of these trainings at https://www.hivtrainingny.org/
As part of our commitment to building ongoing partnerships within our Peer Services Program, The Alliance offers special internships to its PREP graduates. Peer interns are matched with appropriate The Alliance staff, whom they then assist in conducting trainings, escorting case management clients to medical appointments, co-facilitating support groups, administering The Alliance’s Food Pantry and Clothing Bank, and more. Peer interns also conduct health promotion workshops for active substance users, women, HIV-infected populations, and persons at risk.
Spanning an average of six months or longer, these internships include a stipend and support group meetings. The internships solidify and enhance the work experience of PREP graduates, many of whom go on to become full-time staff at ASC and other AIDS service organizations throughout the City. In fact, more than 20 percent of The Alliance’s full-time staff are former The Alliance Peer Educators – a fact of which we are extremely proud.