In 2009, the WHIC established its Peer Advocate program. Three patients from the Clinic serve as the Peer Advocates, who work with clients at the Clinic and use a Social Networks Strategy to bring difficult-to-reach clients in for testing and/or care; they have traveled to high-risk neighborhoods on the Waterbury Health Department’s Community Health Van to offer counseling and testing and have participated in AIDS Awareness Days to facilitate the linkage of newly diagnosed patients to primary care. Peer Advocates participate in the WHIC’s CARE Team and continuum meetings to keep providers and local partners aware of the patients’ activities and needs.
The WHIC offers patients nationally-recognized peer and support programs, including Project Photography, which was established in 2007 to encourage non-compliant patients in the Greater Waterbury Area to become more proactive in the self-management of their disease. Project Photography has positively transformed its participant’s self-esteem and confidence. Patient projects have included enrolling in photography classes at Naugatuck Valley Community College; taking field trips to Boston; donating framed photographs to the hospital’s annual fundraising gala; producing holiday greeting cards for the hospital; creating team portraits at the hospital’s fundraising golf tournament; and constructing photography exhibits at the hospital, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, and Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury.