The Social Model of HIV

The Social Model of HIV (SMH) is a new and innovative model of empowerment and leadership evolved and developed by people living with HIV who share a vision of our empowerment, our leadership role models and our leadership contributions.

The origins of this model are derived from ‘The Social Model of Disability’ and the subsequent work of Danny West who is a consultant trainer and coach.

Danny was diagnosed HIV in 1985 at the beginnings of the epidemic.   

The SMH is fundamentally premised in the belief that HIV is a distinctive empowerment advantage and opportunity; it promotes the idea that people living with HIV can be empowered influential leaders who can bring authenticity, integrity, uniqueness and added value to our families, communities, leadership roles, workplaces and society.

This perspective contradicts societies view point of us as being disempowered helpless victims.    

The SMH recognises that we have a significant range of viewpoints, skills and competencies that are honed and highly developed because of our experiences of living with HIV. People living with HIV have developed strategies for overcoming adversity and the barriers and challenges associated with discrimination, stigma and the medical and charitable models of health conditions perpetuated by society.

This model also recognises that we are likely to be more resourceful, determined and resilient because our survival and success is often dependent on our ability to continually practice and develop these skills throughout our lifetimes.

The SMH recognises that we are also likely to have developed and honed many core empowerment and leadership skills such as communication skills, problem solving skills, planning and strategising skills, rapport building skills and an ability to respond to uncertainty.

As people living with HIV we are extremely diverse and often share a more inclusive perception of society and the environments in which we lead our lives; Danny believes that people living with HIV often share a more insightful understanding of the impact of exclusion, discrimination and stigma and that we often understand and can practically relate to prejudice, discrimination and the challenges of life and daily living.

SMH thinkers believe that it is our human right to participate as proactive, empowered people and leaders; our leadership is denied by society because of stigma and societies limiting beliefs, low expectations and a lack of leadership opportunities and positive role models. 

The SMH stresses that we have the right to be valued, recognised and provided with enabling encouragement to participate as empowered people and leaders in society on an equal basis; when we are allowed to so do, then society as a whole will benefit from our experience, knowledge, skills and unique contributions and perspectives.

Danny is currently further developing the SMH in partnership with people living with HIV and the organisations that enable people living with HIV such as the Terrance Higgins Trust. Please contact Danny if you would like to include your contributions and or if you are interested in commissioning SMH empowerment programmes for people living with HIV.