Two resources for people newly diagnosed with HIV are now available after a touching launch last week highlighting the stories of positive survivors.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Dr John Carnie praised the new educational DVD series, Changing Voices: Stories of Living with HIV, and the book of personal short stories, Closer, as a “professional and valuable” new resource.

“Seeing real people talk about their own experiences is a very effective way of increasing understanding and empathy in the community in a way that a thousand brochures or websites could not,” he said.

“It is important that we don’t hide HIV away in the shadows, but talk about it openly not just in infected and affected communities but in the broader community as well.”

In a powerful DVD series, 12 HIV-positive Victorians tell the story of their lives and the impact HIV has had on them.

Closer’s collection of poetry and short stories by people living with HIV was put together from a creative writing course funded by Oz Showbiz Cares Equity Fights AIDS, who later provided money for publishing the book.

PLWHA Victoria executive officer Sonny Williams said the resources were developed to reduce some of the stigma HIV-positive people still face.

“Tonight we showcase an extraordinary group of people who are living with HIV,” he said at the launch.

“These speakers have made the decision to be public about their HIV status and to educate the Victorian community about the realities of living with HIV.

“Each writer has taken an incredible journey… we know that expressing our thoughts verbally and in the written word allows a sense of empowerment and a vehicle for dealing with what can be a life-altering experience.”

The PLWHA Victoria speakers bureau regularly gives talks to the general public. In the last two years, it has presented to over 12,000 people, more than half of whom were secondary school students.

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