THERE is still a lot of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, warns the WA AIDS Council ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
This year’s theme is ‘Boldly Positive’ and it’s hoped the day will help raise awareness of people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Unfortunately, there is still a large amount of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, and WAAC is committed to boldly standing up and speaking up against this,” says WAAC CEO Lisa Dobrin.
“People living with HIV/AIDS can now live long, happy, and healthy lives that are relatively unaffected by this virus.
“There is a proportion of people living with HIV who continue to need support with the ongoing management of their health and wellbeing, and WAAC offers a range of support service to people living with HIV, whilst continuing to work with the wider community to advocate, educate and inform the public to help end stigma and discrimination relating to HIV and AIDS more broadly.”
To mark World AIDS Day, WAAC is holding a special all-day event at Yagan Square in the Perth CBD including a Welcome to Country, community breakfast and educational and interactive stalls.
Rounding off the event will be two short movies at night – Sam about a newly divorced man questioning and exploring his sexual identity, and Hugo: 18:30 about a young actor embarking on a journey of sex, illness and emancipation. The movies will be shown outdoors on the Southern Hemisphere’s largest digital tower and movie screen.
For the past 37 years, WAAC has been supporting people living with HIV including case management, counselling, social interaction, peer support, as well as training seminars and education to the wider community and WA workforces.
“WAAC runs the niche sexual health M Clinic in West Perth, which is for the men who have sex with men community, including gay men, trans and gender diverse people, and non-binary people,” Ms Dobrin says.
“M Clinic conduct STI and HIV screening and is one of the most known places for queer and gay men when it comes to STI screenings.”
“We also run one of the primary needle and syringe exchange programs within the Perth metropolitan area, which includes our site located in Fremantle the ‘Freo Xchange’.
“The NSEP uses a harm reduction approach which acknowledges that people are going to use drugs but focuses on keeping them as safe as possible while they do. This service provides sterile injecting equipment for people who inject drugs, as well as safe disposal, harm reduction education, naloxone, and referrals to services.”
During the height of covid and lockdown, WAAC started offering telehealth appointments, and they proved so popular they have kept them on as a regular service.
“The ability to conduct phone appointments, has increased accessibility for our community and we have retained that option as part of our regular clinic operations and a further service delivery option with greater accessibility and inclusivity,” Ms Dobrin says.
“Other WAAC services were modified to implement online and over the phone services, such as case management, counselling social connection and peer support to ensure that the people living with HIV community (who are already typically isolated and marginalised) had a support system in place during the peak of the pandemic that they could turn to.”
To find out more about World AIDS Day go to waac.com.au/world-aids-day-2022/