IT IS the online service that aims to support those affected by HIV.

Solent NHS Trust has launched an online live chat service for people living with or affected by HIV.

The HIV live chat is believed to be one of a kind in England and allows users to talk with a clinical specialist directly online to receive confidential guidance and counselling.

Debbie Zimmerman, head of Solent NHS Trust’s sexual health services, said: “We are piloting this online secure chat facility to enable individuals, who are struggling to come to us due to reasons such as distance from a sexual health clinic, stigma or fear, to receive essential service support from the comfort and security of their home using a mobile phone or computer.

“For many communities, even talking about HIV can be very difficult. Stigma still acts as a barrier and this is something we are working to break down.”

Ms Zimmerman stressed that the online facility had not been developed to replace existing services.

She added: “We want people to feel at ease. We recognise that for some, this means first talking to us about their HIV worries in a way they feel comfortable, and for others it may just mean they don’t need to walk into a clinic.”

The live chat is funded by Public Health England and can be used by visiting