THE first regional peer-run AIDS council in Australia to be established will commemorate its 30th anniversary at event in Northern Territory’s Parliament House today.

Hosted by NT Health Minister John Elferink, the celebration for Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council’s (NTAHC) landmark year will feature a cross-section of LGBTI community members as well as a bipartisan political representation.

Established in 1980s during the AIDS crisis, NTAHC continues to be the only not for profit organisation providing services and information for people living with or affected by blood borne viruses such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C.

“We are probably a little different than other AIDS councils around Australia as our notifications are different,” NTAHC executive director Kim Gates said. 

“In other jurisdictions it’s predominantly in the gay men’s populations. In the NT we see a higher percentage of heterosexual people, a lot of migrants and refugee backgrounds or travellers from high prevalent countries.”

NTAHC also manages one of the country’s most successful Indigenous sexual health programs, which also supports the community’s sistergirls and brotherboys.

“There’s a higher number of sistergirls and brotherboys who are ‘out’ in NT,” Gates said.

“The Tiwi Islands have led the way in supporting each other in coming out and being open in their community setting a standard.”

“Our Aboriginal sexual health program does work with them and also works with gay and lesbian people within the Aboriginal population who face stigma and discrimination because it goes against the cultural ways.”

During the ceremony in Darwin today, Indigenous artwork will be gifted to the NT Government based on the original posters used by health workers which educated Indigenous people about using condoms as a prevention tool for HIV and hepatitis.

The NTAHC History Project will also be previewed, ahead of its formal launch next month, to honour the organisation’s 30-year history.

“In seeking to unearth one history for an entity such as NTAHC, I have uncovered many histories, on many levels,” NTAHC board member and researcher Panos Couros said.

“I have found that the history of one council takes in the development, dissolution and amalgamation of five different organisations.

“I have also discovered that history is made up of different people’s stories and often it is best to present all of the stories together rather than try to rewrite them into one. For this project I am interviewing 30 people, one for each year, and presenting their collected stories as a way to represent the growth of the council that has diversity at its core”.

Later next month, a recreation of the 1988 AIDS Candlelight Vigil Memorials in their original locations will take place in both Darwin and Alice Springs to remember the loss of people from the epidemic as well as raise awareness around HIV prevention and stigma.

Other AIDS councils in Australia that have already marked 30 years include the Victorian AIDS Council, ACON (AIDS Council of NSW) and Queensland AIDS Council.

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