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Outcome Evaluation of Freedom to Be (F2B) – a summer camp for young people with HIV

Duration: January 2010 - January 2011

The Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA) is a registered charity which functions as a network for those working in health and social care that are supporting children and families living with HIV. CHIVA also runs projects to meet the needs of young people living with HIV and their families.

CHIVA’s first summer camp, called Freedom to Be (F2B) took place on 15th-19th August 2010 at a school in South East England. Seventy-nine young people aged 13-17 attended. All places were free with all running and travel costs funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. The camp combined workshops covering issues related to living with HIV, outdoor and leadership activities designed to develop confidence and overcome fears, and social and leisure activities. Through attending, young people were encouraged to develop peer relationships, that it was hoped would be sustained beyond the camp. The anticipated benefits to these young people of being able to talk openly with their peers about shared experiences of living with HIV were thought to be significant. Esteem is likely to lead on to improved self-care, including increased medical adherence, better educational attainment and clearer aspirations.

Given that this was a pilot project that sought to inform a sustainable annual intervention, CHIVA commissioned Sigma Research to describe, in detail, the value of participation in the camp by undertaking an outcome evaluation among participants. The funding for this evaluation was provided by Elton John AIDS Foundation. Camp attendees were invited to complete brief surveys before camp, at the end of camp and three months afterwards. Unique identification codes allowed for comparison of individual’s responses to similar questions at these various stages. Ethics approval for the evaluation was granted by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee at the University of Portsmouth. Participants’ confidentiality was carefully protected, through the use of anonymised identifiers to link the three phases of data, and CHIVA organisers did not have access to the raw data.

The completed evaluation provides CHIVA with an analysis about the extent to which the following aims have been met for F2B participants:

  • positive experience at camp;
  • improved knowledge about living well with HIV;
  • reduced social isolation;
  • ongoing contact with other young people with HIV;
  • beneficial interaction with adult camp leaders who have HIV.

Young participants’ experience of the camp and its self-reported impact on their lives was overwhelmingly positive. Young people were happy to have gained new friends, to have spent time in a welcoming, open and understanding atmosphere, and to have many of their questions about living with HIV answered. For each of the five aims of camp listed above, the evaluation findings demonstrated that at least three-quarters of those taking part experienced positive change. Where before and after comparisons were possible, we found that about two-thirds of participants had increased the extent to which they discussed HIV with family and friends since being at camp. The overwhelming majority had stayed in contact with other young people they had met at camp. The participants also made many suggestions to make camp better if it happens again, and these form the basis of a series of recommendations made at the end of the evaluation report.

For some, F2B represented a significant milestone in their lives, a time when they grew to be more open, and more confident in themselves as young people with HIV. For many others, F2B was a time of release, escape, fun, and a chance to make lasting friendships. Almost all those participating reported having learned more about HIV and its place in their lives, as well as having learned considerably more about themselves.

The full F2B evaluation report is available to download here.

Key contact at Sigma Research: Catherine Dodds