A CONFERENCE-style event for World AIDS Day in Melbourne this year will aim to bring together public health professionals, researchers, and the community in discussion around HIV.

Inspired by the International AIDS Conference last year, which was also in Melbourne, the event will focus on moving towards UNAIDS’ global goal of getting to zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination by 2020.

It will be presented by Living Positive Victoria in partnership with a number of other community organisations including JOY 94.9 and the Victorian AIDS Council.

Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan said World AIDS Day provided an important opportunity to raise awareness around HIV.

“When there’s so much new information on things like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment as prevention, and things around vaccines and cures, it’s important we get that information out there,” he told the Star Observer.

“I think what’s important is that we celebrate, remember, and take advantage of the awareness created through World AIDS Day every year.

“The event is certainly inspired by last year’s AIDS 2014 Conference and will focus on three streams – community, science, and leadership.”

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy will launch the event at its opening session, and Allan anticipated other politicians would also be in attendance.

“What we’re hoping for is an announcement from the government about scaling up the response to HIV in Victoria,” he said.

“Sometimes research fails to tell us something important and we get a bit disappointed, but in fact it’s good because it’s informing us on how to move forward.”

A community forum on PrEP is also slated to take place, exploring Australia’s currently limited access to, and understanding of, the drug which works as a form of HIV prevention.

Activist group SeeItClearly2020, who recently launched the controversial poster campaign telling gay men to “fuck raw on PrEP” has also been invited to speak at the forum, but they have not yet confirmed.

JOY 94.9 presenter Dean Beck will host the PrEP forum, which he believes will help bring about understanding on both sides of the debate around PrEP.

“I’m hoping that the forum will be a robust discussion about PrEP and where it fits in today’s landscape around gay men,” he told the Star Observer.

“I’m very pro-PrEP personally but I have mixed thoughts about the poster campaign so I’m looking forward to hearing from the poster group.

“I think that because we’ve had 30 years of having only one solution, it’s going to take time to break a lifetime of learning… to have a new paradigm and to be comfortable with that is going to take time.”

A symposium will also be held in the afternoon focusing on the science that has driven both the understanding and management of HIV.

The one-day World AIDS Day conference will be held on December 1 at the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne.

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