HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust is inviting people living with HIV who are long-term unemployed to apply for its ground-breaking Back to Work scheme, set up to ease those with the condition back into the workplace.

About 25 per cent of people with HIV in the UK are currently unemployed. Thanks to advances in medication, many can return to work, but – after a long period of ill health – they may lack confidence, or feel they no longer have the skills or stamina required to find a job in an increasingly competitive market.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Back to Work scheme will give people with HIV the chance to undertake a six-month work placement with the charity, developing skills and experience that will make it easier for them to find paid employment. In 2011, a pilot of the scheme saw 10 people with HIV work for up to 16 hours a week across a variety of departments in its central office. After six months, one participant was in paid full time employment, two were in paid work, and two were undertaking further education courses. 80 per cent of participants felt more confident about coming to work, and 100 per cent felt more ‘work ready’.

John has been working at Terrence Higgins Trust’s central office since August 2011. Having previously worked in the entertainment industry, John felt ‘invisible’ after being left unable to work for 15 years. As part of the scheme, John received IT training, CV and interview tuition, and support from a Life Coach. He is now building a vital database for the charity and interviewing its service users.

John said: ‘Previously anything to do with the future just terrified me – to me it was just poverty or illness. I wanted to return to work but didn’t trust my health. I needed to test my limits. I had never even worked in an office before. Taking part in Back to Work has given me a huge confidence boost and a passion for work. My fears about the future are just dissolving.’

Garry Brough, Membership Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust said: ‘Last year’s Back to Work scheme was a real success. Some of our participants have gained employment, while we’ve seen others transform into confident, productive people. We want this year’s scheme to be even better, so if you’re living with HIV and think you might benefit from some careers assistance, please get in touch.’

The Back to Work scheme is open to anyone living with HIV who has been unemployed for two years or more, or who is receiving benefits. Placements will be offered in London and Brighton, and the deadline for applications is Monday 30th April.