This World AIDS Day the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Heath Centre is taking the safe-sex message to the tram tracks.

New VAC/GMHC president Michael Williams and girl-about-town Dolly Diamond have launched a new partnership between Yarra Trams and the VAC/GMHC, with one of Melbourne’s famous transport icons adorned with a giant red ribbon for the occasion.

The partnership is part of AIDS Awareness Week, which began yesterday and ends with World AIDS Day on December 1.

Trams around Melbourne will display World AIDS Day posters during the week to raise awareness that HIV is still an issue affecting thousands of Victorians.

VAC/GMHC executive director Mike Kennedy said current rates of new HIV diagnoses — only slightly down from Victoria’s 2006 high — the fall in death rates, and improved HIV treatment meant there were more people living with HIV in Victoria than ever before.

“The HIV epidemic no longer appears to be perceived as relevant to many Victorians,” Kennedy said.

“HIV still exists in Australia and there is currently no vaccine or cure. In the past year, two Victorians were diagnosed with HIV every three days.”

Kennedy hopes the tram messages will spread the word on HIV prevention in the mainstream community.

Yarra Trams marketing manager Matt McDonell welcomed the campaign. “We are pleased to be able to assist in raising awareness of this important community health issue as part of our program of supporting Melbourne organisations and events,” he said.

Recent data shows HIV infections have increased by almost five percent nationally since 2008. The majority of new cases of HIV, however are still with men-who-have-sex-with-men, accounting for 85 percent of new HIV diagnoses.

info: To get the facts about HIV and learn more about World AIDS Day visit www.vicaids.asn.au.

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