I’ve just had the privilege of attending the stream this morning on Community & Social Research – Preventing Viral Hepatitis. All of the sessions were very valuable, however, I particularly enjoyed the session titled “Peer Link”, this was presented by Yvonne Samuels, Yvonne presented on behalf of Fiona Poeder who was unable to be present.
Yvonne was a vibrant and passionate presenter who succinctly and clearly made the point that, while often overlooked, peer education is a powerfully effective tool for fighting viral hepatitis in injecting drug using communities.
Peerlink, is a program run by NUAA (NSW Users and Aids Association). It is a peer education project which has been developed and is delivered by people who use drugs. It has recently been delivered in Nowra, Toronto and Mt Druitt. The model is a holistic model that tackles Hepatitis C via education and prevention. It is based on the view that each individual community knows its own needs and own also contains the strategic information that that community needs for prevention.
Compellingly, Yvonne quoted, when you arrive in a community, “What you do …. is shut up….You never arrive in a community with any ideas.” Rather you need to arrive in the community ready to learn what the community needs.
The Peerlink program has three phases.
Making contact with the community, find a core group of people who use drugs and who are interested in being trainers in their own community (peer recruitment). In this phase service partners are also identified and recruited. In this phase there is initial training, the project outlined and planned.
In this phase Peerlink peer educator activities take place with individual contacts of the peer educator and also in groups. If appropriate refresher training takes place. There are also health promotion activities and collaboration with service partners. There is ongoing peer facilitator training.
Is working out how to withdraw the peer-link program while sustaining the gains that have been made.
The results have been impressive. In Mt Druitt there were 10 peer educators. In two years NUAA expected 800 peer education interactions. In actual fact, there were over 7,000 peer interventions. In Toronto, there were seven peer educators. It was expected that 800 interactions would occur in two years. In actual fact over 9,000 conversations took place. In Nowra, there were nine Peer Educators. It was expected that in two years there would 400 interactions. However, in two years there were more than 6,000 total peer interventions.
In summary, it was concluded that Peerlink demonstrates effectiveness in disseminating education to communities and reducing Hepatitis C.