While most of us spend Christmas with family and friends, for some members of the community it can be one of the loneliest and most difficult times of year.

People find themselves alone at Christmas for many reasons, sometimes because they don’t have any family still alive, they don’t have family in town or because they’ve been rejected by their family after coming out.

Chris Wilson, training and volunteer coordinator of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, said family problems were an issue for many callers over Christmas.

Guys and girls who have been ostracised from their family obviously have a difficult time at Christmas, Wilson said.

Recent relationship break-ups are something else people talk about, and sometimes drug and alcohol issues are brought up around this period as well.

Christmas can also be a tough time for HIV-positive people living in poverty. According to the charity Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF), 30 percent of people living with HIV today live under the poverty line.

While Christmas is a time of joy and celebration for most of us, it can also be a time of incredible emotional and financial hardship for people living in poverty with HIV/AIDS, Fergus Kibble, president of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, said.

BGF is once again holding its annual Christmas appeal, asking those in the community who are more well off to donate money.

The most common requests from BGF’s clients at Christmas time are for help with the payment of electricity, gas and telephone bills, interest-free loans to purchase things like fridges, and assistance with medical costs and essential medication.

BGF is also selling beach towels and Christmas cards as part of the appeal, which can be purchased at www.bgf.org.au or at Gold’s Gym, Aussie Boys or Westpac in Surry Hills and Bondi Beach.

The Luncheon Club is raising money to provide Christmas hampers for HIV-positive people living in poverty. The hamper contents include Christmas cake and pudding.

The Luncheon Club is in particular need this year as they no longer have permission to run one of their biggest annual fundraisers, the pass-outs at Mardi Gras parties. Fox Studios banned pass-outs being given.

That has affected us severely, Luncheon Club founder and president Carole Ann King said.

This year the organisation is hoping to have enough money for 150 hampers. Donations can be made at the Luncheon Club website.

If you are concerned about being lonely at Christmas, you should make plans so you don’t end up with nothing to do. Visit an art gallery or the movies, eat out at a restaurant or try to spend time with a friend.

The Metropolitan Community Church is holding their annual gay and lesbian Christmas Eve service on Sunday 24 December at 8pm in Sydney Town Hall.

This year it will feature guest speaker Julie McCrossin and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir. Admission is free but reserved seating can be booked for $10 on 9569 5122.

Contact the Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service on 8594 9596, or 1800 184 527 if calling from outside Sydney. For more on BGF’s Christmas appeal go to the BGF website. For more on Luncheon Club see the Luncheon Club website.

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