The Andrews Victorian government has announced a pilot project which will place HIV-positive peer workers in high caseload Melbourne clinics to support people living with HIV (PLHIV).

The $300,000 project will be led by Living Positive Victoria and will run from 2018-2020.

The project was announced by Health Minister Jill Hennessy at the World AIDS Day launch at The Doherty Institute on Friday morning.

Living Positive Victoria interim CEO Suzy Malhotra said spoke of the significance of harnessing the experiences of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in responding to HIV.

“The lived experience of PLHIV is vital to an effective response to HIV in Victoria.

“We are thrilled with this new funding and our organisation will use this project to remain focused on our commitment to PLHIV because HIV is still here and still matters,” Malhotra said.

Of the approximately 7800 PLHIV in Victoria, 90 per cent know their status but 15 per cent are not on anti-retroviral treatments and over 20 per cent do not have controlled virus levels.

“The availability of peer workers can address these gaps and increase the number of PLHIV staying in care,” said

“This in turn will enable PLHIV to maintain and improve their health and give them an increased sense of hope and control over their lives.”

“Each person is different but the shared similarities of PLHIV allows individuals to connect on a unique and intimate level that cannot be replicated through other support services,” said Christabel Millar, President of Living Positive Victoria.

“The moment of diagnosis is extremely isolating due to stigma and misconceptions about the virus.

“As a person living with HIV, I’m ecstatic to think that a positive peer will be there in that moment to help alleviate any fear and put people at ease because a good quality of life lies ahead for them.”

Peer workers will work in clinics across Melbourne including Prahran Market Clinic, Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic and Northside Clinic.

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