‘Getting to zero’ is this year’s international World AIDS Day theme which will be remembered by various events in Melbourne on Saturday, December 1. For 2012, the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) is encouraging people to host red-themed fundraising dinner parties and will have volunteers out and about selling red ribbons throughout the Melbourne CBD.

The VAC will also host the World AIDS Day Memorial service at the Positive Living Centre, South Yarra from 2pm.

VAC executive director Matt Dixon said the international event was important to reflect on the immense human cost of HIV over the past three decades.

“It is an opportunity to remember the friends, lovers and family whose lives were cut short,” he said.

“It also is a moment where we can celebrate that our collective efforts over a long time have limited the impact of HIV.”

Dixon said gay men deserved the greatest accolades for consistently looking after themselves and their partners by using safer sex and risk reduction.

“On World AIDS Day we reflect on what we have achieved and the great deal of work ahead to make a world without HIV,” he said.

Living Positive Victoria will host the official launch of World AIDS Day at Parliament Gardens from 10.30am.

On Friday November 30, Living Positive is also holding a WAD public forum in Melbourne Town Hall’s Swanston Room from 12.30pm with panelists including commentator Jane Caro, associate professor David Anderson and Living Positive executive director Brent Allan.

Allan told the Star Observer it was important to remember the estimated 2.5 million people who were newly infected with HIV around the world last year despite the great advances in HIV technology and prevention. “In Australia, the numbers are increasing… eight percent on the previous year,” he said.

“Living with HIV isn’t as easy… it’s different than what it was when you were diagnosed in 1980 or 1990 but some things remain the same,” he said.

“Some things, I’d venture to say, are certainly no better, possibly getting worse.”

Allen said the stigma around living with HIV was one area that had not improved.

He said he was heartened by stories of resilience but added the community had not made a dint in HIV stigma over the past three decades.

“I don’t think we can forget until we’re going to have social change, like real change about living with HIV,” he said.

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