On World Refugee Day, Thursday 20 June 2019, The Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health and Living Positive Victoria will co-present a free community forum to explore barriers and enablers to accessing HIV prevention services and discuss emerging issues related to HIV prevention among refugee and migrant communities. The forum will pose the question, why, despite major scientific breakthroughs, has HIV still not been eradicated?
Speaking on the forum will be one of Living Positive Victoria’s Peer Navigators, Aashvin (pictured). As a Peer Navigator, Aashvin, an HIV positive migrant, responds mainly to new diagnoses of HIV within migrant communities and international students.
“This forum is geared towards allowing the public access to community workers such as doctors and peer workers around issues about living with HIV, whether it be people are living with HIV or those who feel they may be at risk. The forum hopes to reach people who have little to no knowledge of HIV, such as those newly arrived in Australia from homelands that do not offer the same degree of education and support that we experience here in Australia.”
Aashvin feels that often, people from these newly arrived communities don’t have the conversations they need to be having around HIV in order to provide the best information and education. “This is largely due to the stigma around not just HIV, but sex more broadly – most particularly the sex that happens outside of marriage. This forum will open up conversations about where we are today with HIV in terms of treatment and prevention and offer a space where we can undo the stigma that has kept these communities in this headspace of fear for so long and say to these communities that it’s ok to get tested.”
The panel will also be discussing the options available after testing and talk about ongoing HIV prevention and treatment. Aashvin believes that a forum like this will get the message out that we all have a part to play in getting to our goal of eradicating HIV. “Sometimes people can see themselves as outsiders and think they don’t have a part to play in society. The point of the forum is to show that HIV affects all of us and that we all have a role to play in its prevention.”
As a Peer Navigator, Aashvin deals predominantly with members of migrant communities, including international students. “Most men who I engage with who have newly arrived in the country have either been coerced into an early marriage back home or arrive here with the intent of avoiding marriage. This is most problematic for men who are gay. The stigma around homosexuality is another common narrative we have to try to undo. People are being diagnosed with HIV because they are not taking preventative measures due to the idea that they can’t be affected by HIV. A lot of this has to do with the fact that a lot of men from migrant communities participate in male to male sex but don’t define themselves as gay. This diminishes the degree to which they associate themselves with the risk. The big challenge for this forum will be reaching individuals such as this and others at risk.”
The panel discussion will run for 45 minutes followed by a 30 minute Q & A, on Thursday 20 June 2019, from 4:30 – 6:30pm, at the Multicultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. There will be food and entertainment.