Australia’s oldest HIV/AIDS organisation the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has announced that it will change its name to Thorne Harbour Health to mark its 35th anniversary.
The new name honours Alison Thorne and Keith Harbour, two community leaders from early in the organisation’s history of advocating for the people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI communities.
“AIDS councils are trusted institutions in Australia, but our evolution as a community-controlled organisation has seen us outgrow our identity as ‘the Victorian AIDS Council’.
“We’re now working with a broader range of LGBTI communities, delivering programs and services interstate and nationally.
“Thankfully, we’re at a point in the epidemic where having an AIDS-defining illness is rare in this country, and the majority of people living with HIV are seeing the health benefits of highly effective treatment options.”
VAC CEO Simon Ruth added that the new name will give the organisation “a fantastic opportunity to tell our story to a whole new generation of people”.
“Alison and Keith represent a much larger group of community leaders, activists, and advocates who worked, and in many cases continue to work, for the health and wellbeing of our PLHIV and LGBTI communities,” said Ruth.
“We’re incredibly proud of where we have come from, and we’ve made that legacy central to our new brand identity.”
In June 1983, in Melbourne’s first community meeting about the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic, one voice stood out among hundreds of people—lesbian activist and queer liberationist Alison Thorne.
Thorne motivated and mobilised the meeting by asking what could be done about the crisis and how, pushing for the need for organisation.
A few weeks later, a followup meeting was held at the Laird Hotel, resulting in the formation of what would become VAC.
Keith Harbour was VAC’s fourth president from 1987 to 1989.
As an inspiring leader, Harbour mobilised the community from high-level political policy to grassroots activism with the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP).
Harbour worked tirelessly for access to lifesaving medicines for PLHIV.
In a special ceremony convened by the then Governor of Victoria, he was awarded the Order of Australia medal at his bedside at Fairfield Hospital before he passed away in 1991.
The new name will honour these community heroes and those like them, as Thorne Harbour Health continues to support the PLHIV and LGBTI communities.