HIV/AIDS and HCV risk factors related to homelessness: Are front line workers equipped with knowledge to best support shelter clients?




Hastings, Sarah

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Background Shelter employees of the Victoria Cool Aid Society (VCAS) work with clients living with or at risk of contracting, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The purpose of this thesis is to assess whether the VCAS shelter staff need further HIV/AIDS and HCV education to support shelter clients. Methods A two-part (A and B) survey consisting of 70 questions asked 38 Emergency Support Workers to: A) rate their ability (expertise) to answer HIV/AIDS and HCV related questions, and B) identify which questions contain important knowledge to know for their work. Staff were recruited via Posters on bulletin boards around shelters sites as well as an email, and two follow up emails, informing staff about the survey. The survey explored the following subjects: 1) HIV/AIDS (12 questions), 2) Hep C (11 questions), 3) Health and Substance Use (3 questions), 4) Protocol (3 questions), and 5) Community Agencies (6 questions). From this format, it was possible to assess where staff felt their knowledge levels could use improvement (low and medium knowledge levels) and what topics they felt important to know for their work (high importance to know). These two parts of the survey, together, were then used to determine questions to include in a future training course i.e. questions were staff reported low or medium knowledge levels and high importance to know. Results Results for each of the five sections showing both lower levels of knowledge (expertise) and higher knowledge importance, were as follows: 1) HIV/AIDS: 8 out of 12 questions, 2) HCV: 10 out of 11 questions, 3) Health and Substance Use: 1 out of 3 questions, 4) Protocol: 3 out of 3 questions, and 5) Community Agencies: 3 out of 6 questions. Survey results were delivered via Power Point presentation to management of the Victoria Cool Aid Society using simple graphs and charts to describe easily the findings to stakeholders. The presentation emphasised that staff overall are in need of specific HIV/AIDS and HCV education. Conclusion Emergency shelter workers are in need of HIV/AIDS and HCV education. The results can inform a HIV/AIDS and HCV educational course for VCAS shelter staff.



HIV, AIDS, HCV, homelessness, shelter workers