Positive outlooks for Qld’s HIV/AIDS organisations

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Michael Scott, executive director of QuAC, took over the position in July this year and says he’ll be commemorating World AIDS Day by attending the first Candlelight Vigil in many years at New Farm Park. “They hold a similar event in Cairns,” he says, “but it’s the first of its kind in Brisbane for several years,” Scott says.

Looking back, Scott says in terms of personal satisfaction a highlight this year is the opening of Clinic 30 at QuAC’s headquarters in Helen Street, Teneriffe, which expanded the testing services previously offered by Testing Point on Tuesday nights to five days a week.

“Also, moving [Clinic 30] from just sexual health to mental health as well,” Scott adds. “That’s a very significant move; that a person is not just an object to be tested for HIV – people are diverse and there are a range of reasons why we need support. We see people as a whole. And Clinic 30 sees a wide range of people, we provide sexual health services to the entire LGBTI community and services on a range of various sexual health needs. It’s not just HIV focused.”

Scott says he’s proud of the negotiation with the Queensland Health that saw the state government provide free HIV rapid testing kits to the clinic in September.

“I think that was a major success story for this year,” Scott admits. “I think it was only a matter of time till that happened and it’s unfortunate that it took such a long time for it to happen.”

Scott says QuAC is now looking to fill three positions: a finance officer, a counsellor for the Cairns region and a health promotions and community development officer also for Cairns.

Financially, he says, things are looking up for QuAC in 2015: “I remember two-and-a-half years ago when we were defunded and in crisis, and I compare that to now and there are green shoots appearing now for the organisation,” he says.

“We are getting different sources of funding and we are remaining relevant to our community and I think it’s only a matter of time before we are fully funded for the services we provide. I think the organisation is heading in a very solid direction.”

Simon O’Connor, executive officer at QPP, says his organisation has a message for people this World AIDS Day: Know Your Status.

Although QPP’s focus is the wellness of people living with HIV, O’Connor says his organisation also supports the benefit of not transmitting the virus too.

“We’re encouraging people to know their status, encouraging people to test,” he says. “Because when people know their status they can take steps to deal with HIV not only in relation to considering treatments to maintain their own health, but also to avoid transmission of HIV.”

O’Connor says the most important attribute a person living with HIV in 2014 needs is resilience: “But personally, I find it a little disappointing that we’re still talking about that; that people living with HIV still need to have that resilience.

“And they need to have a level of resilience because stigma and discrimination are still present in society. After 30 years of HIV, the fact we’re still talking about that is disappointing. There are still myths around about HIV, which is disappointing. [HIV Foundation Qld] conducted a survey not that long ago and some of the stuff that came out of that, the perceptions of some people: that you can still catch HIV from a cup… Some of these strange things.”

In June this year, QPP produced a series of documentary films featuring HIV positive and one negative person called ‘Talking About HIV’. “We were able to have snippets of those screened during a screening of the Dallas Buyers Club not long ago,” O’Connor says.

“They were seen by well over 11,000 people. It’s putting a human face to HIV and it’s great that we do have people with HIV in Queensland who are prepared to come out and speak about their experiences, which also goes some way to demystifying and destigmatizing HIV.”

Over the past 12 months O’Connor says QPP’s success stories have included the creation of the HIV awareness Community HIV Education and Prevention (CHEP) team and the establishment of the HIV rapid testing clinic in Ann Street in the Valley in September.

He says he’s confident the government is taking steps to combat HIV successfully in the state. “Certainly there have been Ministerial Advisory Committees under a range of different ministers, which have always been welcomed. But there seems to be an increased commitment to raising awareness of HIV at the moment, which we obviously welcome.”


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