Janey Sewell's Story
Janey Sewell travelled to Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2013 in order to investigate access to, and uptake of, HIV testing services, with the aim of better understanding how services in the UK could improve service engagement amongst Black African communities and overcome barriers to HIV testing.
At the time of her Fellowship, Janey was working as an HIV Specialist Nurse at the Royal Free Hospital, London. She was interested in understanding barriers to HIV testing, particularly among the Black African community. In the UK, this community are poorly engaged with health services and are therefore at a high risk of a late stage HIV diagnosis. This has serious implications for morbidity and mortality, as well as onward transmission of HIV.
Over a six-week period, Janey visited HIV testing clinics, hospitals and innovative out-reach programmes, in urban and rural areas across Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In Kenya, Janey was fascinated to observe how medical, educational, religious, social and community organisations were all working to de-stigmatise HIV. Education and testing was offered at mobile testing centres, churches, and social meeting hubs, as well as all healthcare centres and community clinics. This is in contrast to the UK, where HIV testing is limited to specific clinics or hospitals, and only a small number of organisations offer testing in the community.
Janey’s Fellowship report recommended further decentralisation and integration of HIV testing services at a community level, and increased training and utilisation of HIV Specialist Nurses and peer educators to care and support patients outside of a hospital setting. The report was published in the HIV Nursing Journal and has been presented to HIV clinics and services across London and at the Royal College of Nursing.
The experience and knowledge Janey gained from her Fellowship has enabled her to progress her career in various ways. She now teaches on a nurse education programme specifically for HIV and Infectious Disease nurses in Eastern Europe and North Africa. The Fellowship also assisted Janey in securing a PhD and funding at University College London to investigate attitudes to, and understanding of, risk of acquisition of HIV among the UK’s most vulnerable communities.
In the future, Janey hopes that the experiences gained from her Fellowship, and her published recommendations, will help to inform the development of HIV testing services in UK clinics. Janey also hopes to host colleagues met through her Fellowship in the HIV clinics that she currently works in, as part of a potential knowledge and skills exchange.