THE Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has launched a powerful new campaign in the lead up to World AIDS Day reminding the public that HIV is still a major issue worth addressing in Australia.

Posters have been put up around Melbourne and its neighbouring suburbs bearing the slogans ‘HIV and AIDS are not over’, ‘HIV affects everyone’, and ‘stigma is real for people with HIV’.

The campaign was partly created as a response to mainstream media reports earlier this year claiming that AIDS was ‘over’ and no longer a public health issue in the country.

Chief Executive of VAC Simon Ruth said the campaign was designed to target the general public rather than the gay community.

“If you’re an active member of the gay community you’re getting messaging about HIV every time you pick up the Star Observer,” he said.

“But we don’t exist in isolation – we’re part of the general community and we’re trying to get the message across to them, our family and friends.”

Ruth added that while the virus disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, women and other members of the community are also at risk and should be aware of it.

“There are significant numbers of women that turn up in the data and it’s important they know it’s a risk and that they get tested,” he said.

“We had the Grim Reaper ad many years ago that created fear and stigma, and we want to challenge that.”

With World AIDS Day around the corner, Ruth believes the next year will see a renewed push to raise awareness around prevention methods like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and reducing stigma.

“Our goals are always around prevention, we want people to know how to get on PrEP,” he said.

“It’s about raising awareness around the different prevention technologies – condoms are still fantastic but we’ve got PrEP as well.

“And we want HIV-positive people to know the benefits of treatment, and to go on treatment as early as possible.”

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