The psychology service at the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) supports you through all aspects of HIV, from diagnosis to treatment and with living well with HIV.

Living with HIV can be difficult both physically and emotionally. Being given a HIV-positive diagnosis is often cited as one of the most traumatic experiences in people living with HIV. 

HIV is still a highly stigmatised condition, which can make people living with HIV more susceptible to problems like depression, anxiety, adjustment issues. Living with and managing this condition presents its own unique challenges.

We are here to support you to live longer and have better access to the normality of everyday life; have a good physical, emotional and sexual health; grow and develop as anybody else; have positive relationships; and live your life according to what is important to you. 

Psychological therapies are available within our HIV service with our team of highly experienced specialist psychologists. 

You can self-refer or speak to your doctor or nurse and request a referral. 

Due to the high number of referrals, there may be a short wait before you are seen by the team.

Our HIV psychologists are specifically trained to support people with the following:

  • new diagnosis and difficulties with coping
  • HIV-related mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, sleep, bereavement and loneliness, relationship and sexual health problems
  • sharing of status (to partners, family, children and others)
  • practising safer sex and risk reduction
  • pregnancy
  • taking HIV medication
  • Chemsex (with onward referral for substance use)
  • stigma and discrimination
  • neuro-cognitive screening for cognitive issues

The HIV psychology department offers a neurocognitive screening service for people reporting mild to moderate cognitive difficulties, including problems with concentration and attention, co-ordination and movement, memory, slowed thinking, difficulties with completing complex tasks, personality change, irritability, and emotional changes.

The screening involves testing, which takes approximately two hours. 

Depending on the outcome, people may then be offered a short course of psychological intervention or onward referral to a more appropriate service.

Our psychologists often draw on numerous therapeutic modalities, such as:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on challenging negative thoughts and beliefs and facilitates alternative thinking and coping strategies. 

It has been found to be equally, if not more effective, in improving mental health symptoms than pharmacological treatments.

CBT has also been shown to impact HIV-related clinical outcomes. 

Mindfulness and meditation

There is now increasing evidence that mindfulness and meditation practices are beneficial to people living with HIV to help improve with acceptance and adjustment, resulting in better management of their overall health.

Narrative therapy

Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that can be used individually or as a community approach. 

It centres people as the experts in their own lives and opens the space for the telling of people’s experience and stories. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a type of therapy that emphasises acceptance to deal with negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or circumstances.

It encourages increased commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold your values or goals. 

Please speak to your clinician if you would like further resources. Please note that by clicking on these links, you will be taken to third-party websites. 

Get Self Help website 

Useful TED Talks