It is clear to us that we can achieve more when working in partnership with the sector and the community. Today, we are seeing a renewed interest and focus on developing innovative and collaborative strategies to address the challenges of HIV. As a sector, we must continue to engage with one another and the community to ensure that these contributions include the best possible outcomes for people living with or at risk of HIV. The sector’s commitment to involving the community not only helps build trust and credibility in our organisations and services, but also reflects a deep commitment in ensuring that the work we produce is relevant to the population we aim to impact.

At HIV Scotland, a core principle we follow is acknowledging that we are not the experts on the needs of people living with or at risk of HIV. What we do is act as conduits to help amplify community voices to effectively advocate on their behalf. This principle is reflected in our approach to creating ample opportunities for the community to inform our work. We take it even further by ensuring our community has direct input into everything we do, including the development, implementation, and monitoring of our projects. This involvement process has helped us produce quality resources whilst also nurturing a sense of unity, responsibility, and ownership of the work we do to safeguard the health and well-being of the community. But more importantly, it helps build trust and meaningful partnerships with the community.

Whilst it is essential that people living with HIV must be at the forefront of Scotland’s response to the challenges posed by HIV, we also recognise that a single organisation cannot provide for the full spectrum of their needs. Because of this, partnership between the wider HIV sector is critical to ensure that the community have the space and support for their greater and more meaningful participation in the issues that are most relevant to them. And, as a sector, it is important that we actively seek cross-sector partners who have a direct impact or who demonstrate a willingness and commitment in improving the lives of the community. Not only does working together build trust between sector organisations and the community itself, it also provides an accountability mechanism that effectively audits our processes and the quality of work. As an organisation keen on learning, we regularly seek advice from sector-partners whilst also reaping the benefits of their efforts – allowing us to distribute skills and knowledge whilst adding depth and breadth to our projects.

By understanding how to engage meaningfully with the community, we can begin to understand the context of vulnerability people living with HIV experience. To fully appraise whether our involvement efforts are effective, we need to understand the perceptions and experiences of those participating in the co-production of our initiatives. Whilst community involvement and participation are critical, we need to also consider how co-production is organised and managed to ensure meaningful involvement and the achievement of Scotland’s HIV strategic objectives, such as zero new HIV transmissions by 2030. It is the process and the broader implications of involvement that needs to be understood and will ensure that the community’s trust has not been misplaced.