The launch of the World AIDS Day campaign for 2002 focused on national issues of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as addressing the spread of the virus on a global level.

Minister for Health and Ageing Senator Kay Patterson officially launched Australia’s AIDS Awareness Week at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Monday morning, framed by the enormous red ribbons visible on the Harbour Bridge. Patterson endorsed the international two-year theme Stigma and Discrimination.

There are continued reports of less favourable treatment in relation to accommodation, health services, insurance and in employment [for people with HIV/AIDS], said Patterson, who added that such discrimination was un-Australian. The event also launched a series of posters and television advertisements themed HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate. People do.

Melbourne speaker Tony presented a personal account of discrimination in the workplace, one of a number of incidents he had encountered in the three years since testing HIV-positive.

Chris Puplick, president of the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW and chair of ANCAHRD (Australian National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases), demanded change.

There are still laws of the commonwealth and laws of the state that mitigate against effective HIV/AIDS programs and which continue and sustain unacceptable discrimination against people who have HIV -¦ said Puplick, who acknowledged Australia’s solid reputation for HIV education on a global level. He added, however, that we are not in a position to effectively promote ourselves as having answers to all the problems so long as we continue to sustain domestic laws in Australia that are long overdue for reform.

Puplick also spoke of the global pandemic, citing statistics of infections occurring every 5.4 seconds and 8,000 AIDS-related deaths each year. Both Puplick and Patterson addressed the dangers of complacency while Australian HIV infections are on the rise.

The launch was the second event of AIDS Awareness Week, with the World AIDS Day awards night held on Sunday night. The Honourable Dr Neal Blewett and director-general of NSW Health Robyn Kruk presented outstanding contribution awards to volunteers and advocates Joan Maxted, Peter Gordon, Saul, Phillip Medcalf and Ray Hansen. Partnership awards were presented to Sue Fitzgerald, Sue Frankham, Luke Chipperfield, Penny Darroch, Viktoria Kingsley, Peter Collard, Erica, Anthony Creighton, Alan Denmead, Mary-Jane Leahy, Tobin Saunders and Gloria and Colin Williamson and Karen Wherrit from the Tamworth Sexual Health Volunteer Team. The Posthumous Roll of Honour commemorated the achievements of Barry Fitzgerald and Chris Ridley.

On Monday night about 200 people attended the AIDS Candlelight Memorial at Green Park, Darlinghurst, and many more are expected to attend a concert by candlelight this Saturday at the Holy Trinity Church, the Rocks. The concert will feature music by Mozart and Handel.

The week is also one of the major fundraising periods for a number of AIDS charities. ACON is looking for volunteers to sell red ribbons from today until Saturday. To volunteer, phone 9206 2107 or email or just turn up (with identification) at the ACON offices at 9 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. Team Aussie Boys, who wowed the crowds at the Gay Games, will be donating their time to provide fitness training in Hyde Park this Saturday, with a routine that makes appropriate use of the collecting buckets.

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