EACH year, December 1 marks World AIDS Day (WAD). The day falls at the end of AIDS Awareness Week, and aims to raise awareness of HIV while remembering those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

This year’s WAD theme was ‘HIV is still here and it’s on the move’.

Community organisations around Australia pinned on their red ribbons and held events to mark WAD on Thursday.

In Brisbane, the day began with a breakfast forum at Parliament House. Politicians, clinicians, community health leaders, and LGBTI community representatives met to acknowledge WAD.

Simon O’Connor, Executive Officer of Queensland Positive People, spoke about the need for bipartisan support in the fight to end new notifications of HIV. He talked about the advances in HIV prevention that have occurred in a relatively short time, including PEP, PrEP, and treatment as prevention.

“We remember all those we have lost in the fight, and the fight is not over,” O’Connor said.

Queensland AIDS Council executive director Michael Scott said WAD was “a celebration of great work, a commemoration of loved ones who have died, and a recognition of the role of people living with HIV and people who challenge the stigma”.

Scott urged everyone to continue working to make PrEP equally available for all Australians by pushing for PBS listing. Access to PrEP must include everyone at risk, such as Indigenous people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs—“not just white middle-class gay men who live in New Farm,” he said.

The Queensland Minister for Health, Cameron Dick, noted that at the time of the first WAD in 1988, gay sex was still illegal in Queensland. He talked about the historical and ongoing fight against both HIV and homophobia.

“We acknowledge victory over great odds in many ways,” said Dick. “We can discuss zero transmission by 2020… because there’s never been more ways to protect individuals and the community from HIV.”

“Progress can be undone if we’re not careful,” he said. “We’re going to make Queensland better—we’re going to stop the transmission of HIV.”

John-Paul Langbroek, Queensland Shadow Minister for Health, also commented on the progress made in HIV prevention and care since the 80s. He spoke about the fear of contracting HIV as a health professional at that time, and how far HIV knowledge and healthcare has come.

Queensland AIDS Council held a candlelight vigil at Queen Street Mall in the evening, memorialising those lost to AIDS and celebrating the lives of people living with HIV. Buildings around the city were lit in red to commemorate the day.

In North Queensland, the Townsville HIV Network held a reflection and remembrance event at Rowes Bay. Thursday Island and Cairns community health centres each hosted a morning WAD launch, and a commemorative ceremony in Cairns featured guest positive speakers.

In the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) held a WAD launch reception in Darwin, and information stalls around the Territory to raise awareness of HIV. NTACH will also hold dance parties for WAD in Darwin and Alice Springs on Saturday night.

In Western Australia, community members took to the streets of Bunbury to start conversations and dispel myths about HIV and sexual health. The WA AIDS Council held its annual Good Spirits Day, providing free makeup artistry and pampering for people living with HIV.

Thursday night also saw the opening in Fremantle of ZERO, an art exhibition in support of Western Australians living with HIV. The theme refers to zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. The exhibition runs until Sunday, with part of the proceeds from art sold going to the WA AIDS Council.

In Canberra, the AIDS Action Council held a community picnic on Aspen Island on Thursday evening. The National Carillon and Kings Avenue overpass were lit in red to mark the day.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow was the guest speaker at a WAD breakfast in Hobart on Friday morning. The event raised funds for the Andrew Shaw Foundation, which provides emergency financial assistance to Tasmanians living with HIV.

HIV/AIDS awareness events will continue around Australia through December.

A World AIDS Day memorial ceremony was held in Melbourne to commemorate the millions of lives that have been lost to HIV and AIDS since the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It was held at the Positive Living Centre in Melbourne, and featured a keynote address by LGBTI equality campaigner Tiernan Brady.

There was also an AIDS quilt display at the memorial.

Positive Life NSW celebrated and commemorated the lives of people living with HIV on World AIDS Day in Sydney, with an AIDS quilt display that helped to contrast the eighties experience of living with HIV to that of a modern day positive person in 2016.

Along with a number of speeches the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence helped to bless the event, and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir closed the event formalities with Sydney icon Ben Drayton acting as DJ.

A free community barbecue was held in Adelaide to mark the day, with community groups SAMESH, SHine SA, Relationships Australia, and the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia coming together to help sell red ribbons to raise money and awareness around the HIV sector.

The Adelaide Lantern also displayed messages around HIV awareness and prevention to mark the day.

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