Community News

HIV Chaplaincy, active within community

October 29, 2023

Words by Revd. Heather Leake Date

Connecting and working with other people and with community groups is an enjoyable part of both my HIV Chaplain and HIV Pharmacist roles, and is essential to delivering an effective service (which I hope I do!). In both positions the needs of the person living with HIV and/or their loved one(s) are paramount, and it’s hugely helpful to be able to refer or signpost someone to people and organisations that I know personally, such as Lunch Positive for food, peer support, volunteering and befriending, Terrence Higgins Trust for benefits advice, and the Sussex Beacon.

By 2024 more than 70% of people accessing local HIV services will be over the age of 50, so the Sussex HIV Chaplaincy and Lunch Positive recently co-hosted a successful Ageing well with HIV networking event as part of the city’s annual Ageing Well Festival. It brought together a wide range of statutory and voluntary services along with potential service users and was a great example of partnership working.

It’s always a privilege when people feel safe enough to share their personal stories with me; whether it’s chatting over a meal at the lunch club, visiting someone in the Sussex Beacon, or keeping in touch with someone by phone and text for several years. When asked what the Chaplaincy meant to him, Ed said “It brought sunshine in my darkest hour”.

Heather Leake

The Chaplaincy offers a free, confidential service to anyone affected by HIV, regardless of their faith background: a listening ear, a friendly face and a supportive voice for anyone with emotional or spiritual issues related to their HIV status or that of someone close to them. You can get in touch by phone/text/WhatsApp on 07867 773360 or email

As Chaplain, on behalf of the Brighton & Hove World AIDS Day Community Partnership, I am responsible for the safekeeping of the list of names to be read at the WAD Candlelight Vigil, which is always held in New Steine Gardens on December 1 at 6pm. The Vigil is primarily intended to remember people with a local connection who died with HIV (not necessarily as a result of it), but proof is not needed. Initially, due to stigma or confidentiality concerns, some people just gave first names or nicknames, but now it’s more usual for someone’s full name to be listed. It’s never too late to add someone.

To submit a name, please email the details to me at by midnight on November 26. Please include the correct pronunciation (especially if it may be unclear to a reader). Late entries can be made at the Lunch Positive marquee in New Steine Gardens on December 1 before the Vigil, but advance notice is preferred.

I also organise the annual World AIDS Day Service of Remembrance and Hope at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church. This year’s service (shared with the Village MCC) is on Sunday, December 3 at 6pm; all are welcome.