A SPECIAL community forum focusing on HIV and AIDS issues and policies will be held in Melbourne on Wednesday night in the lead-up to the Victorian Election later this month.

Organised by the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) along with Living Positive Victoria (LPV), the forum will look at the actions outlined in their joint election document HIV/AIDS: What Your Government Can Do, and attendees will have the chance to hear from Health Minister David Davis, Shadow Health Minister Gavin Jennings,  Greens candidate Colleen Hartland and Australian Sex Party candidate Joel Murray.

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Moderated by former VAC executive director Mike Kennedy, each of the party representatives will have 10 minutes to speak individually before opening the floor to a question and answer session.

VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said the forum will be significant in that Melbourne’s LGBTI community will unlikely see another forum with a focus on HIV and AIDS issues before the November 29 election day.

“Events like these are incredibly important for the community,” he said.

“This forum affords us the chance to put our community in the same room with the politicians running for election. We want to hear what each party is willing to commit to in response to the actions prescribed by VAC and Living Positive Victoria in our joint election document earlier this year.

“This is a great opportunity for the public to get further insight into each party’s response before it’s time to vote.”

LPV executive director Brent Allan agreed: “In recent months, there’s been a lot of discussion regarding the repeal of Section 19A, improving access to treatment and working to end HIV stigma. Now we need to hear in further detail what we can expect from each party if they are to become the next Victorian Government.”

Ruth highlighted his hope that the forum will touch on as many of the issues included in his organisation’s and LPV’s joint election document as possible.

“I imagine there will be a lot of discussion around HIV and criminalisation as we had some announcements from both the government and the opposition earlier this year regarding Section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958, as well as a lot of discussion in recent months regarding drug use and gay men.”

Ruth also expected the topic of access to PEP across the state would also be raised, as it is still not as readily available as it is in some other Australian states.

“We would like to see as many people from the LGBTI communities and people living with HIV as we can fit into the building,” Ruth said.

“We want them engaging the speakers and asking the questions that matter to them.”

The forum will be held at VAC’s Positive Living Centre, 51 Commercial Rd, South Yarra. Doors open at 6.15pm for a 6.30p, start. Event is free but space is limited. RSVP by emailing [email protected] or calling 03 9865 6700.

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