DHIVERSE is the HIV & Sexual Health charity for Cambridgeshire. Our focus is to promote good sexual health and work to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, we provide support for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, and we work to challenge the stigma and prejudice which can affect people living with HIV, and to challenge sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
We have grown considerably since our early days as Cambridge AIDS Helpline. Cambridge AIDS Helpline was set up in 1986 by a group of friends who were concerned at the lack of information and support around HIV/AIDS which was available locally. Within a year a free telephone information service was in operation, leaflets on HIV had been produced and were being distributed and a team of trained and skilled volunteers had been established.
The next eight years witnessed the gradual expansion and intensification of the organisation’s activities: the introduction of counselling and ‘buddying’ services, the development of health promotion and outreach to the local community, and the growth of a small, skilled team, culminating in the appointment of a full-time manager in 1994.
In 1996, in recognition of the range and diversity of services then offered Cambridge AIDS Helpline changed its name to Cambridge AIDS Action and acquired new, and significantly larger, premises at Dales Brewery, where we are today. The change in title reflected the increasingly proactive role of the organisation in identifying and meeting the changing needs of the local community.
With the introduction of combination therapy in 1996, the challenges of living with HIV over the long term became an increasing focus and the range of our support services diversified from the traditional provision of ‘buddying’ support to include a wider range of services addressing other specific needs. The shift in government – and therefore funding – agendas towards empowerment for those living with long-term conditions, including HIV, supported this diversification.
In 2001, the year of its fifteenth anniversary, Cambridge AIDS Action changed its name to Cambridge DHIVERSE; developing HIV Education, Resources and Support. This reflected the change in the nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the UK from the mid-nineties onwards and our response to these changing needs.
In 2004 the charity expanded its geographic focus to include Cambridgeshire and the surrounding counties. This change facilitated the development of a range of regional activities in addition to the focus on Cambridgeshire projects. With this change the organisation took the name DHIVERSE.
DHIVERSE met the changes in the epidemiology of the HIV epidemic in the UK by a broadening and intensification of our outreach and health promotion programme for both the general population and groups identified as experiencing higher prevalence of HIV infection, as well as expanding our work in schools, developing peer education and support initiatives, and challenging stigma and discrimination.
In 2010 DHIVERSE undertook a review of its service provision and the way it promoted this provision. The outcome was that there was a need for more clarity around both our organisational aims and our service provision. With this in mind we restructured both the staff team and service provision. We now have three key streams of work:
- Promoting good sexual health and working to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
- Supporting people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
- Working to challenge the stigma and prejudice which can affect people living with HIV, and to challenge sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
A key strength of DHIVERSE is the involvement of people living with HIV; in all aspects of our work, from the staff team, salaried and volunteer, to the development and design of programmes of work.