Living Positive Victoria is marking 30 years as an organisation that has more than met its founder’s original vision and purpose with an advocacy, support and empowerment model that has helped countless people living with HIV/AIDS build resilience through challenging stigma via the sharing of lived experience within peer led programs.
CEO, Richard Keane, says “it’s almost impossible to convey the lived experience of HIV, even though it’s something I engage in daily. Each person living with HIV has a unique individual experience that is valued, valid and intersects with identities, genders, age, ethnicity, agency, and is now intergenerational. It has taken an entire community led response to get us to where we are today.”
We have come a long way. The U=U moment and the efficacy of treatment as prevention means People living with HIV who adhere to effective treatment and achieve an undetectable load cannot sexually transmit HIV to their partners. This means people living with HIV can live health sexual and reproductive lives. “It’s life changing. Its life affirming, says Richard.
Despite these advancements, stigma still creates barriers to testing and provides an environment where people choose not to disclose their status out of fear of the impact on their families, workplaces relationships and communities. It isolates, disempowers and internalises the way we engage with others and the care we give to ourselves and our quality of life.
Living Positive Victoria is still as important to a successful HIV response as it was 30 years ago, and it’s the insight, the empathy the people, culture and community connection that continues to inform the work the organisation does ensures our relevance and capacity to adapt to change.
For Craig Burnett, a member of Living Positive Victoria’s Gen Next Program, Gen Next provides both social networking and awareness to help young people living with HIV to develop into more well-rounded people. “We aim to provide what we can in order for us to become better people who are well informed and have good support networks. With this we hope young people living with HIV will be more secure in ourselves. We also believe that we are supplying the tools for the youth of today to become the leaders of tomorrow” says Craig.
The investment Living Positive Victoria puts into young people living with HIV today will hopefully create great leaders tomorrow. Great leaders who will have the awareness of current issues facing people living with HIV. Great leaders who will have the support networks to carry the through the difficult times. Great leaders who will have had exposure to a diversity of issues so they may better look out for issues that do not only affect themselves.
With transmission rates on the up among heterosexuals, we’ve got a bit of work ahead of us. We are continuing to collaborate with Positive Women Victoria to reach more women. We are looking forward to trying innovative new ways to engage more heterosexual men living with HIV, supporting them to get on treatment, stay on treatment, achieve a low viral load and preventing onward transmission thrive. Especially people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
It is at this 30 year point in our journey that we place value in our past and take steps to define our future.