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Christie's Place: Bringing Together and Empowering Women With HIV

Jaime Rosenberg
Christie’s Place, a nonprofit social service organization, puts a large focus on social determinants of health to help their clients not only keep up with their medical care, but also improve their quality of life. 
Since 1996, Christie’s Place has been bringing together and empowering women living with and affected by HIV.

Recognizing that women face significant barriers to accessing and remaining in care, Christie’s Place, based in San Diego, California, offers medical case management and basic needs assistance to help women gain access to medical care and access to different services that help support their care.

The organization's peer navigators, who are women living well with HIV, work with women who are newly diagnosed or who have fallen out of care to help them navigate the HIV medical care system as well as provide them with care-based motivational support. “What it really comes down to is instilling hope,” said Erin Falvey, executive director of Christie's Place, in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care®. "Our clients see our peer navigators are living well with HIV and that they can too."

In addition to medical assistance, and other services such as mental health services and therapy, Christie’s Place puts a large focus on social determinants of health to help their clients not only keep up with their medical care, but also improve their quality of life.

The peer navigation offers transportation assistance for clients, something Christie’s Place identified as a significant barrier to care. The peer navigators help women make their first doctor’s appointment, come up with questions to ask the doctor, and identify what they want to get out of the appointment.

Instead of an office, Christie’s place is a house in a residential neighborhood, complete with a kitchen for women to cook and eat in, a living room to lounge in, and a child care center. Fresh produce is offered twice a month, fresh bread once a week, and hygiene products can be accessed monthly.

What makes Christie’s Place so valuable to its clients is its commitment to providing a social support system, explained Falvey. Many times, women don’t disclose their HIV status because of the stigma surrounding it, and they end up feeling isolated.  

“I think, really, the key piece of this is bringing women out of isolation,” said Falvey. “We know isolation brings with it depression and other quality of life challenges. The context of Christie’s Place being a women-friendly and family-friendly environment where women can come and just spend time with us and connect with other women and a community, that really is one of the most important ways to bring women out of isolation.”

The organization provides myriad recreational activities, ranging from multiple support groups, including an art group and a group that walks to a nearby park and attends museums, to spring flings, a fall festival, and holiday parties. With a focus on empowerment, the organization holds a 3-day women’s empowerment retreat in September during which women go to the mountains and socialize while attending empowerment programming. The organization is also preparing to host a 4-day training program for women interested in becoming more involved in policy and advocacy work or who are interested in becoming peer advocates or peer navigators for others.

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