REMEMBERING the stories, lives and experiences of those the LGBTI community has lost to AIDS-related illnesses over the 30 years of the epidemic lie at the forefront of World AIDS Day (WAD) commemorations and events around Brisbane next week.
As with the rest of Australia and worldwide, the day will also focus on raising awareness on HIV and how far treatment and testing has come, and why it is essential to tackle the stigma that remains today.
Last year saw the return of the WAD Candlelight Vigil in Brisbane after an absence of seven years, and drew a large crowd to New Farm Park to help commemorate the occasion.
In 2015, the vigil is moving to the centre of the city to the prominent Reddacliff Plaza at Queen Street Mall, a location that will make a “very significant” change to the reach of the event according to Queensland AIDS Council executive director Michael Scott.
“The more prominent location was chosen to make it more accessible to the broader community, to engage passers by about the significance of World AIDS Day and AIDS Awareness Week. The event is about raising awareness not only to LGBTI people, but to the entire community,” Scott told the Star Observer.
“The reality is that our approach to HIV is very different in 2015 compared with the mid 80s.”
Given recent media exposure surrounding actor Charlie Sheen’s revelation that he has been living with HIV, Scott said despite some media sensationalism and poor reporting, mainstream attention provides opportunities for education.
“Of course there will be media attention directed to people ‘coming out’ and there will be spikes in media attention around celebrities, but this does not greatly affect what is required in Queensland,” Scott said.
“December 1 provides a range of opportunities to remember the past, look at where we are at currently, and to look towards the future with new strategies for increasing awareness.
“We absolutely must remember the people who have passed from HIV as their stories, their experiences and their challenges provide so many opportunities to shape the present and future experiences of HIV.
“Many of the experiences of stigma have been seen throughout history, and it can only be through retracing the past, that we can plan for the future.”
In the lead up to WAD, the second in a series of short films have been launched by Queensland Positive People (QPP) that explore and share the stories of people living with HIV (PLHIV) that are so vital to effect change.
Talking About Treatment features five participants and the personal stories about their lives living with HIV.
“Treatment is different now and for many people, it’s only a single pill a day that allows PLHIV to live a healthier and more normal lifespan,” QPP executive officer Simon O’Connor said.
“We are keen for newly diagnosed PLHIV to hear about and consider the personal benefits in commencing and adhering to HIV treatment. Our aim is to increase awareness of just how far treatment has advanced.”
Speakers for next Tuesday’s candlelight vigil will include someone living with HIV, the director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Dr Anthony Allworth and Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick.
The Queensland Ambulance Service will also participate in the commemorations on the day with all service people wearing a red ribbon as “a visible sign of support” for WAD, Acting Chief Superintendent Drew Hebbron said.
For a full list if WAD events across Queensland, click here
Watch the full Talking About Treatment series: