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HIV services at Christmas and the New Year (2009/2010)

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HIV services at Christmas and the New Year (2009/2010)
Posted on: December 28 2009, 01:56 pm

Many people find that the Christmas and New Year holidays provide a welcome and enjoyable mid-winter break. HIV services will close for part or all of the holiday period.
HIV clinics

Although you should check details with your own clinic, it is likely that all specialist HIV treatment centres will close on the afternoon of Thursday 24th December and will not reopen until Tuesday 29th December, closing again for the New Year holiday on Thursday 31st December and reopening on Monday 4thJanuary.

It is therefore important to make sure you have enough medication to last you over the holiday period as obtaining further supplies is likely to be very difficult. Get in touch with your clinic now if you think you need to see your doctor or need more supplies of HIV drugs. If you need medical help when your clinic is closed, you should contact your GP, go to a walk-in centre, or in an emergency go to your local hospital casualty (A&E) department.
HIV services

You are likely to find that all HIV services provided both by local authorities and the voluntary sector will close early on 24th December, and will not reopen until the 29th  December at the earliest. In addition, the New Year break will mean early closing on 31st December until the morning of 4th January.

However, you may find that many services will close on Christmas Eve and remain shut until Monday, 4th January.

Even when service providers are open between Christmas and the New Year they may be able to offer little more than a very basic service. If you use HIV services, enquire before the holiday period about their opening times.
Money and benefits

It's very easy to spend a lot of money at Christmas, but life goes on after the festive period and a major cause of the January blues is over-spending in December.

Money can be especially important to consider if you are on a low income or live on benefits. Benefit offices will also close for Christmas and the New Year holidays and if you are entitled to benefits over the holiday period these should be paid in advance. It is important to budget your money, as you will not be entitled to any further payments until after the New Year.
Everyday issues

Hopefully you'll enjoy the holiday period. But many people, regardless of their HIV status, find Christmas a difficult time to cope with. You may find that being HIV-positive either makes these problems worse or creates additional ones. For example, adherence to your HIV treatment might be more difficult, particularly if you find that your normal routine is interrupted or disrupted in some way. In addition, spending time with people who do not know that you have HIV might mean that you are questioned about your pill taking. You might find NAM's Factsheet Adherence Tips and the NAM booklet Adherence helpful. You can download both of these from NAM's website, or free copies are available by calling 020 7840 0050.

Food and drink are traditionally one of the pleasures of the mid-winter holidays, but it can be easy to overdo things. Christmas and New Year is also a season of parties, and for some people this means taking recreational drugs. If you are planning to take drugs, it makes good sense to think about how to do this as safely as possible.

Christmas can be a time when people get together. This is often rewarding, but can also have stresses and strains. Some people find Christmas quite a lonely time of year, and emotional distress and depression are experienced by some people. Depression is relatively common among people with HIV and although drinking large amounts of alcohol and taking drugs may seem to offer a short-term escape, they will probably make things worse.

Many people relax their inhibitions during holiday periods and Christmas and the New Year are no exception. It makes good sense to think about your sexual health over this period - the first two weeks in January are often one of the busiest times of the year in sexual health clinics.

Support and helplines

Although most face-to-face services will be closed, some HIV specific and other telephone helplines are open over the holiday period. Some are open as normal while others are open reduced hours. Details of some are listed below. Please note that they may have reduced opening times, or be closed completely, over the holiday period.

HIV i-Base Treatment Phoneline

0808 800 6013

Information on HIV treatment. Usually open Monday to Wednesday 12 to 4pm.

Closed over the Christmas and New Year period.

NHS Direct

0845 4647

A service which provides 24-hour confidential health information. It is open every day of the year.

The Samaritans

0845 790 9090

The Samaritans helpline is open 24 hours every day of the year. The Samaritans are available to anybody who is lonely or depressed and feel that they have no one else to turn to for support or anybody who is going through a personal crisis and thinking of taking their life.

Sexual Healthline

0800 567 123

This is a 24-hour national phoneline and will be open throughout the holiday period offering confidential advice, information and referrals on all aspects of sexual health and HIV to anyone.

THT Direct

0845 1221 200

THT Direct is a specialist HIV telephone information and advice service provided by the Terrence Higgins Trust. THT Direct is usually open 10am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 12pm to 6pm at weekends.

It will be closed on the 25th and 26th December and 1st January but will be open for shorter than normal hours on the other days over the Christmas and New Year period.

NAM wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2010.

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