The centrepiece of Living Positive Victoria’s 2018 World AIDS Day presentation was a community forum on the topic Living and Ageing with HIV, moderated by Dr Chris Lemoh, President of the Victorian African Health Action Network.

The panel comprised, Dr Clovis Palmer, Head, Palmer Laboratory Burnet Institute; Dr Liz Crock, Bolton Clarke Clinical Nurse Consultant/Team Coordinator; David Menadue OAM, HIV activist and Bev Greet, HIV activist.

In his opening address, LPV President, Adam Ehm, said that “we must stand in solidarity with people who are living long term with HIV and work to bridge the generational divide within our communities. More recently diagnosed individuals often subscribe to the mantra ‘one pill a day and get on with life’, sometimes forgetting those that worked tirelessly to get them to this incredible place where they can consider HIV a minor part of their lives. We must never forget people living long term with HIV; their supreme efforts, the challenges they still face, and how we need to support everyone.”

As methods and access to testing are improved, and treatments becoming more effective, it is assured that people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives, however, one barrier to our universal wellbeing remains. Existing community fear and discrimination has not diminished at the same rate that medical improvements have advanced. The forum panellists went on to highlight that this fear and discrimination is particularly felt by older people living with HIV. In a poignant moment, panel member David Menadue said that “in terms of our mental wellbeing, being out and open about your status, if you can, is the best way to build resilience within ourselves. To me, that is a kind of a cure in itself.”

Adam Ehm reminds us that today, World AIDS Day “we remember the early years of illness, death and grief … and the devastation of HIV & AIDS. We owe those who came before us an enormous debt of gratitude for their heroic participation in studies from which they themselves did not get any benefit, but to which future generations of people with HIV owe our lives. The effects of that time are still here for so many who have lived long term with the virus and for people newly diagnosed who still have the images of the early years to come terms with.”