THE long serving president of ACON, Mark Orr, has stepped down from the position he has held since early 2008.

Last night, Orr chaired his final Annual General Meeting of one of Australia’s largest LGBTI health organisations, which also saw several board members re-elected as well as the release of ACON’s 2014/15 Annual Report.

[showads ad=MREC]During the AGM, the outgoing president briefed members about the implementation and impact of ACON’s HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health programs throughout the past year.

“This year’s annual report commemorates ACON’s 30 year anniversary and this year we achieved many important outcomes across all our work areas, especially in our efforts to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020 by getting gay men to test more, treat early and stay safe,” he said.

“We’re well on the way to achieving this goal with more gay men testing for HIV than ever before, more people with HIV now on treatment and the majority of gay men using condoms most of the time.”

Some highlights of the year included the installation of a giant condom on the Hyde Park Obelisk in Sydney, the opening of a permanent a[TEST] rapid HIV and STI testing facility on Oxford St, and the implementation Treat Early, a campaign promoting the health benefits of HIV treatment.

Other work included provision of care and support services for people with HIV, a new strategy for addressing LGBTI-related domestic and family violence, securing funding for research into and a campaign addressing tobacco use among lesbian, bisexual and queer women, the launch of a community visitor scheme to reduce social isolation among older LGBTI people, the launch of a new Training and Consulting Division providing national LGBTI inclusivity training and services, advocacy around new HIV prevention tool PrEP, and research into a range of issues affecting LGBTI people and people with HIV.

Throughout the year, ACON also distributed over 232,000 condom packs, had over 17,000 client interactions, performed over 3500 HIV and STI tests, and distributed over 495,000 units of sterile injecting equipment.

Farewelling members and fellow board members, Orr said he was proud and grateful to have made a contribution to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people and people affected by HIV.

“It’s been an enormous privilege and a great pleasure to serve alongside my fellow ACON board members as well as the staff, volunteers, supporters and partners of ACON, and I thank all of these people and organisations for working with me during my time as president,” he said.

“I look forward to ACON embracing the many exciting opportunities that the future holds and wish the organisation and the board all the best for their work ahead.”

Orr joined the ACON board in 2006, becoming Secretary later that year before becoming president in early 2008. This followed a stint on the board of New Mardi Gras (now Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras) as both a director and co-chair.

During his tenure at ACON, Orr has overseen a range of important outcomes and reforms. These including adapting ACON’s HIV related work to align with advances in HIV prevention, treatment and testing; establishing Pride In Diversity, Australia’s first employer support program for LGBTI inclusion; transitioning the NSW Sex Workers Outreach Project from a project of ACON to an independent organisation responding to the needs of sex industry workers; and developing and implementing a new five year strategic plan for the organisation as well as several sub strategies for specific areas such as HIV, mental health, alcohol and drugs, smoking, and domestic and family violence.

“Mark’s leadership over nearly eight years has been vital to ensuring that ACON is an open, agile and responsive organisation,” ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said.

“His insightful understanding of community, and his skills and expertise in governance and risk management have not only served ACON well but also many of our partner organisations.

“He has been an incredible advocate… and we’re extremely grateful.”

Meanwhile, five serving board members – Ben Bavinton, Julie Mooney Somers, Joshua Hatten, Justin Koonin and Louisa Degenhardt – were re-elected. They join Andrew Purchas, John de Wit, Richard Lee and Robert Stirling who are up for re-election in 2016.  Board appointed director Steve Berveling continues in his role.

The new president will be announced at the next ACON board meeting November 11.

To read ACON’s 2014/15 Annual Report, visit: www.acon.org.au

RELATED: ACON SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR 2015 ‘ENDING HIV’ RID RIBBON APPEAL

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