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Brighton & Sussex Medical School



What has helped you stay afloat during the Covid pandemic? Have you ever wondered what it has been like for people on different continents, or those living with pre-existing health conditions?

Resilience Diaries is a short film documenting the daily thoughts and lives of people living with HIV during the Covid-19 pandemic in five countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Zimbabwe, the UK, and the Philippines. All footage was recorded by people living with HIV using their phones between January and July 2021; they self-directed their own footage and reflected on their experiences in their own unique ways.

Resilience+ uses video diaries to collect stories of resilience among people living with HIV during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are three specific objectives of Resilience+:

  1. To explore the coping mechanisms and resilience of people living with HIV during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  2. To define the ‘umbrella of resilience’ among people living with HIV by exploring their psychological, social and community sources of strength and agency.
  3. To co-produce a video on the resilience of people living with HIV during Covid-19, which will aim to spread hope and re-imagine pandemic responses.

We have completed data collection in the UK, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Argentina and Trinidad to capture different pandemic, cultural and policy contexts. 

"As people with HIV, we have a long history of organising and helping each other in face of adversity. Individual and collective resilience has become part of our DNA. Covid-19 has exacerbated many issues that were already there: mental health, isolation, poverty. Now we need to prepare for the long-term consequences of this crisis."

Silvia Petretti, Positively UK 

A global partnership 

Resilience+ is a research and advocacy initiative led by BSMS and the Beyond LIVING partnership of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), the International Community of Women living with HIV (ICW) and the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+). We also work with national civil society organisations in the UK, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Argentina and Trinidad. Additional support is provided by the UKRI Higher Education Innovation Fund.

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What is resilience?

Resilience is defined as adaptation and post-traumatic growth in the face of serious adversity, such as a pandemic. It is not the absence of suffering, nor is it a binary condition. Rather, resilience is the dynamic process of adaptation, influenced by individuals, their environments, and experiences. 
Similar to SARS-CoV-2, the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic were characterised by misinformation, fear of contagion, unprecedented community mobilisation and profound changes in how we practice intimacy. Yet despite their hardships and vulnerabilities, or perhaps precisely because of them, many people living with HIV have developed distinctive resilience through community mobilisation, advocacy, and personal agency. Resilience+ aims to understand and document how these resources are being used during the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

A ‘community wealth’ approach

Resilience+ uses a ‘community wealth’ perspective, which means that we are interested in the cultural and social assets that are abundant (yet understudied) within communities affected by HIV and Covid. By ‘community wealth’ we do not mean financial wealth but resources such as a culture of mutual support within a community. 

An in-depth understanding of resilience-promoting mechanisms is essential for informing strengths-based responses to pandemics. Unfortunately, research on both HIV and Covid has been largely ‘damage-centred’, documenting losses without robust reference to markers of strength, resilience and agency. This limiting focus can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and miss opportunities to learn about positive psychological, behavioral, and/or social adaptation strategies used by people during pandemics. Damage-centred research can, at best, inform damage-reduction strategies but it cannot inform the design of empowering interventions which recognise people’s potential, work with their capacities, and boost resilience.

We believe that people living with HIV can provide unique insight into the strategies that can be utilised for uplifting people’s resilience during pandemics. We also believe that documenting this resilience is essential for informing strengths-based responses to HIV, Covid, and future pandemics.

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Empowering methods

People living with HIV who agree to take part in the study will be asked to record videos on their phones of their daily routines, resources, spaces, places, and organisations that help boost their resilience during Covid-19. Video diaries offer opportunities for participants to take ownership of the research process and shed light on important aspects of their life in their own time in a way that face-to-face interviews do not. Evidence also suggests that video diaries can have therapeutic effects on participants in sensitive health research by offering a sounding board and motivation.


Ethical approval has been granted by the BSMS Research Governance Ethics Committee (Approval ref no: ER/BSMS9GXW/2).

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