As an HIV positive peer support worker, Cipri Martinez sees a variety of people with a lot of different issues. And being able to help them out, he says, is what makes his job worthwhile.
He recently met a young woman who only just found out she was positive when she moved from Thailand to live here with her Australian husband. Neither of them knew much about HIV and she was particularly afraid, believing HIV to be, quite simply, a death sentence.
Through an interpreter, Cipri explained how HIV works; about CD4 counts and viral loads and basic safe sex strategies. They discussed antiretroviralA medication or other substance which is active against retroviruses such as HIV. therapy and how she could access affordable treatment, given she is currently ineligible for Medicare.
During the session, Cipri noticed how much calmer the young woman and her husband had become. She explained that her family back home had been expecting her to die and were asking her about life insurance. She could now tell them with confidence that she was going to be all right.
It was a long session and a lot of information was exchanged. Finally, she was introduced to another worker at the Western Australian AIDS Council who arranges afternoon teas with other positive women. Through this group, the woman would be able to meet other South-East Asian women in similar circumstances.
Cipri got a telephone call from the interpreter afterwards. She too had learned a lot from the experience and should the situation arise, she said, would like to work with him again.
Cipri Martinez works in Support and Treatments for the Western Australian AIDS Council (WAAC) in Perth. In his work role he also facilitates workshops, retreats and an online support group. If you’d like to talk to him or another member of the Positive Services team, call WAAC on (08) 9482 0000.