From the coast to the outback, LGBTI people are increasingly visible and active, so supporting in regional areas a higher priority than ever before.

To assist with this, community health group ACON is committed to supporting people living with HIV and LGBTI community across regional NSW.

Chief Executive Nicolas Parkhill says the misconception that people outside larger metropolitan areas are unfriendly or homophobic needs to be readjusted.

“This is certainly not the definitive case and while there are some unique challenges faced by LGBTI people living outside capital cities, such as social isolation and limited access to support services, many regional and rural communities have embraced LGBTI people,” he says.

“We saw this during the marriage equality debate whereby community groups were established and grassroots movements took flight.

“Many of these initiatives are now thriving and LGBTI visibility continues to increase in these once isolated geographic areas.”

ACON’s regional teams provide statewide access to their HIV and LGBTI health programs and services.

The outreach programs across regional NSW are delivered by ACON’s health promotion staff who support, strengthen, and partner with LGBTI community groups, other non-government organisations, health services, sexual health clinics, and government bodies to ensure HIV and LGBTI health remains on the agenda.

Parkhill says this outreach is achieved through face-to-face visits and online support via Skype.

“It is through these connections and conversations that our staff are able to determine where they may best assist local groups and organisations in developing strategies to improve our community’s health,” he says.

“We work in the spirit of collaboration, assisting and supporting local communities to develop their own capacity and programs.

“Connecting with people in regional communities via phone and Skype provides an accessible and confidential support option for LGBTI people requiring assistance with managing a range of health needs including HIV, mental health, and alcohol and other drug use.

“LGBTI people in rural and regional NSW are referred back to our offices to be helped by our client services teams.”

ACON also attends many regional Pride events, including Tropical Fruits, Border Pride, Dubbo Pride, Pokolbin Pride, Hay Rainbow on the Plains festival, and the Broken Heel festival.

Parkhill says these provide an important opportunity for ACON to engage with LGBTI communities on vital health issues, promote their information and resources, and give support to LGBTI people in regional areas.

ACON provides a range of education and information resources for rural and regional communities. Their guides assist in helping LGBTI people and people living with HIV to connect with groups and organisations in their local area.

You can view these regional community guides at: www.acon.org.au/regional-guides.

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