QUEENSLAND Positive People (QPP) last night launched its new short film series Talking About HIV Stigma in Brisbane.
QPP executive officer Simon O’Connor spoke at the launch about the impact of stigma and the importance of eradicating it.
O’Connor said that because of stigma, people are afraid to test and afraid to disclose.
“We need to stop the fear,” he said.
“For stigma to be decreased and hopefully eliminated altogether it will take a community response.
“We call for zero tolerance of stigma and discrimination.”
The four short films in the series follow real people and their experiences, and serve as a rallying call for everyone to examine their own perceptions of HIV.
The people featured in the films each appeared at the launch to talk about their stories.
Beyondblue ambassador Matt Hall spoke about his battle for acceptance in professional football after his diagnosis.
“Put yourself in our shoes and imagine what it would be like for us,” he told the audience.
“It’s important to call out stigma and discrimination for what it is.”
Susan, an older woman living with HIV, was diagnosed when the grim reaper campaign was still fresh in everyone’s minds.
She spoke about the importance of diagnosis for people living with HIV, especially marginalised groups such as Indigenous people.
“I’m hoping that we’re starting to change [attitudes] a little bit,” she said.
In her film, Susan says she “lived with the fear of stigma for a long time”.
In 2000, she ran with the Olympic torch in Sydney on behalf of people living with HIV.
Aaron, a younger man, appeared in a short film discussing his struggle after being diagnosed.
“Life was perfect,” he said. “HIV wasn’t on my radar.”
He spoke of his anger about being asked to provide a doctor’s letter to clear him for working in food preparation.
After his diagnosis, Aaron cut himself off socially before engaging with QPP to learn about treatment and support.
“It’s possible to combat stigma through education,” said Aaron.
He said that people don’t know enough about treatment and that undetectable means untransmissible.
The final film featured Jose and Carlos, a couple from Venezuela who moved to Australia after Jose’s diagnosis.
Jose said he came out to Carlos about being positive after three weeks of dating.
Carlos said he first felt fear, but then learned from Jose and his doctor about treatment and undetectable viral load.
Jose said it’s all right to feel fear when first diagnosed with HIV.
“But don’t stop there,” he said.
“Be strong. Be positive… because you don’t have any option, you’re already positive,” he joked.
Jose’s Australian visa has been rejected on health grounds because of his HIV status, and the couple have decided to appeal the decision to stay in the country they love.
“We’re not going to leave without fighting,” they said.