A new one-stop-shop for HIV services in Sydney was officially opened today by the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, Jillian Skinner.

The building, at 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, houses ACON, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre, the AIDS Trust of Australia, the Positive Living Centre and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) over four levels, with the Luncheon Club operating on the ground floor.

Skinner said it gave here great pleasure to open the new home for the bulk of NSW’s HIV organizations.

“We should be very proud of the work that’s been done in this state over many years … in a bipartisan approach,” Skinner said.

“I was the shadow minister [for Health] for nearly all of the last 16 years and it was a pleasure working with ACON, mostly behind the scenes, to make sure that things kept on track from the point of view of the NSW Parliament and my side of politics”.

Skinner acknowledged the partnership between government and affected communities in combating the spread of AIDS in NSW.

“The commitment of community members has been critical to the NSW response to HIV,” Skinner said.

“In Australia fewer than two percent of drug users are infected by HIV and this compares with much higher rates, some as high as 30 or 40 percent, in Europe, Asia and America. This success is due to in large part to needle and syringe programs which began as a pharmacy based scheme in 1986 and commenced as a public sector state wide program in 1988 and despite the discomfort, perhaps, that this may have created in some people, I’m pleased to say that it had bipartisan support all through those years.”

“SWAP in partnership with sexual health services has been the key factor in providing effective health promotion and peer education programs to sex workers for more than 20 years. These programs have proven to be very effective in NSW in increasing and maintaining a high level of condom use to prevent the transmission of HIV and limit the transmission of sexually transmissible infections among this community.”

“NSW Health support for targeted, culturally appropriate, prevention programs, developed and implemented by community based organisations within the partnership framework, continues to be at the heart of that response.”

“This building at 414 Elizabeth Street is not just a home for ACON … relocating to this premises offers a range of benefits and opportunities for the clients and community members of [all] the resident organizations as well as staff and stakeholders across the HIV and GLBT community sectors.

“These include improved service delivery through the creation of a one stop shop for HIV services- I think that will be of great benefit, better public transport access, improved access to service for clients. Improved access to other agencies, enhanced facilies and community meeting spaces.”

ACON President Mark Orr thanked the NSW Government for their support in making the move to the new building.

“On behalf of ACON’s board, staff, volunteers and supporters, I thank the NSW Government for investing in this new centre which is already enabling us to be more effective in our provision of community services,” Orr said.

“This new facility exemplifies the bipartisan support that ACON and the response to HIV in NSW has received from successive governments since the early 1980s.”

Skinner was joined at the launch by fellow Liberals, the Member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, the President of the NSW Legislative Council, Don Harwin, and the former NSW Anti-Discrimination Board President, NSW Privacy Commissioner and Liberal senator, Chris Puplick.

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