Seven weeks into the job, new Positive Life NSW CEO Sonny Williams told the Star Observer that equity remained a big issue for people living with HIV.

Williams said HIV positive people still faced equal access challenges in employment and medical care.

“The challenges we face are equity issues for people with HIV — problems like access to work, being able to remain in work, flexibility in medical care, access to appointments and medications and also current discussions within the sector around HIV and ageing,” he said.

Williams, who was appointed in June, said he had firsthand experience of the effect HIV/AIDS has had on the community.

“I’ve been positive for 13 years and like many members of the community I have lost friends and partners from the virus,” he said.

“While I’m passionate about access and equality for all members of the community, now my focus is on people living with HIV in NSW.”

Williams, who grew up in New Zealand with a background that includes Spanish, Maori and English, said his upbringing and career path gave him a unique perspective for his work for Positive Life NSW.

After moving to Australia 30 years ago, Williams started out in retail.

“My background was in retail with a change management focus,” he said.

“I came into the HIV sector 12 years ago and I call myself the accidental tourist. I was looking around for what to do next and now, here I am.”

Williams said he hoped to bring the same kind of success to NSW that occurred during his time as executive officer of People Living With HIV/AIDS Victoria, where he led staff and stakeholders through a period of change which included big increases in funding and expanded partnership networks for the organisation.

“I’ve been in the role seven weeks and the conversations I’ve had in the [Health] Department, with service providers and with key agencies is identifying the need to work more in a partnership model and articulating how that will work,” Williams said.

BY ALEX PITTAWAY

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