I recently attended the bi-annual National HIV Gay Educators Conference in Manly with several colleagues.

I know people that have often suggested that conferences are just gab-fests, but attending this bi-annual event is really helpful to the work my colleagues and I undertake in HIV health promotion.

There are opportunities to share with others working in similar community-based organisations from around Australia and overseas. Some of this sharing is in the form of presentations on current projects – both those that have been successful and those that haven’t, though most presenters want to talk about their success stories.

However, learning what hasn’t worked can be helpful, especially when looking into using new media and also when exploring new topics for forums and workshops.

The conference also includes workshops where conference attendees can take on the role of participants to find out what a ‘person off the street’ would discover by attending such a session in the real world. This can help those who are planning and/or writing workshops to work out what is likely to be a successful tool to for their organisations and volunteers doing similar kinds of work.

At conferences like this one there are results from a variety of trials and research projects that have been conducted both around Australia and internationally.

Perhaps over the past weeks or months you have read reports in the Star Observer about HIV rapid testing and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) being trialled in a variety of locations. The current state of these projects and the outcomes – whether positive or negative – are some of the areas that are explored in these conferences.

It is certainly not all dry, academic, mind-dulling stuff. You don’t need to be a worker or volunteer in the HIV/AIDS sector to discover interesting areas.

Luckily those not employed by AIDS councils and allied organisations don’t have to miss out. Conference organisers, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), provide links to presentations on their website. In addition, the AFAO website in general is an excellent site for finding out about the response to HIV across Australia.

INFO: http://www.afao.org.au/events/hiv-health-promotion-conference

By TEX McKENZIE, Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre.

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