THE Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) is partnering with Rainbow Families Council for the ChillOut Festival to discuss the triumphs and challenges faced by families in regional and rural Victoria from gender, sex, and sexually-diverse communities.

The forum will feature a range of speakers with experiences ranging from adoption law reform to trans* parenting and to accessing support in regional areas.

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“LGBTI-parented families are everywhere… They are creating communities in rural and regional Victoria in increasing numbers,” Rainbow Families Council co-convener Amelia Bassett said.

“ChillOut Festival is a unique opportunity to share stories and make connections in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere.

VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said the community forum, We Are Family: Queer Families 2015, would be the perfect opportunity to extend support to LGBTI people living in regional and rural Victoria.

“Over the past several months, these community forums have been a great opportunity for VAC to open up the discussion about a range of issues affecting the communities we serve,” he said.

VAC will also offer free rapid HIV testing during the festival to regional and rural Victorian men, following the success at Melbourne’s Midsumma Carnival.

During Midsumma, in an effort to make HIV testing more accessible in areas frequented by gays and other men who have sex with men, PRONTO! offered outreach testing sessions that quickly booked out.

“The high demand to use to the PRONTO! service at these events has been a clear reflection that the community is keen to take advantage of these opportunties,” Ruth said.

“We also hope that PRONTO!’s presence at these events encourages more open discussions about sexual health screening and helps to de-stigmatise getting tested.”

ChillOut Festival attendees will be able to access a testing session at PRONTO!’s carnival stall, which will offer a secure and confidential space to conduct the finger-prick test.

VAC’s director of services Kent Burgess hoped that making the test available in Daylesford will be embraced as much as it was in Melbourne.

“We hope that PRONTO! being at ChillOut Festival will encourage regional and rural Victorians to get tested,” he said.

“Knowing your status is the best way to ensure your ongoing sexual health and wellbeing as well as look after the people you’re hooking up with.”

We Are Family: Queer Families 2015 will be held at Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre, 13 Camp St, Daylesford from 2pm to 3.30pm. For details and to register, visit: www.vac.org.au/WeAreFamily

For details on PRONTO! or to book an appointment, visit: pronto.org.au

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