AN innovative Australian-based social group for people living with HIV, which likens itself to “a really cool rock band” passed a major milestone this week after signing up its 500th global member.

Styling itself as a “social umbrella”, The Institute of Many (TIM) was founded in late 2012 when Sydneysiders Nic Holas and Jeff Lange met at an ACON-run workshop for men newly diagnosed with HIV.

“We were both only three or so weeks into our diagnoses and we realised there was something missing post the diagnosis workshop,” writer and HIV activist Holas said.

The duo set about creating a space for people with HIV, of all genders and sexualities, to meet, talk and support one another.

TIM runs a private Facebook page, for members to share their experiences of living with HIV, and holds monthly social events in Sydney and Melbourne with a chapter soon to open in Tokyo.

While TIM works with established players in the sector, Holas said it was important that the organisation is at arms length from them and is driven by its members.

“You can’t start a really cool rock ‘n’ roll band in your parent’s basement,” he said.

“So everything we do is peer driven and is grassroots positive people connecting with other positive people.”

Holas said he was thrilled membership of TIM had passed the 500 mark and the social group was expanding to help more people with HIV.

“Some people who come to us are really scared, they’ve got all these old myths swimming around in their heads and they don’t have an accurate view of living with AIDS in 2014,” he said.

“They come to us and that fear dissipates, it starts to get easier, they find strength and many people will begin to tell other people they have HIV or start treatment because of TIM.”

“We are now in a ‘third wave’ of the HIV journey,” Holas added.

“The first wave was when AIDS was first diagnosed and prospects were bleak.

The second was post-1996 with the advent of new medications that, while giving those with HIV a far better outlook, meant those newly diagnosed felt “stupid and foolish,” according to Holas, for contracting the virus.

“In the third wave we’re a lot more open about our status and with the advent of treatments like PrEP it puts the responsibility for protecting one another on both the positive and negative partner,” he said.

TIM can be contacted at www.theinstituteofmany.org

 

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