Light shines on WLHIV

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10 Mar 2016

Yesterday’s inaugural National Day of Women Living with HIV Australia has been hailed a great success. In an effort to celebrate women living with HIV as well as raise awareness of the unique challenges they encounter, numerous events were held across the country: in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Alice Springs.

The day was the initiative of the National Network of Women Living with HIV — or Femfatales. At an event in Sydney, Positive Life NSW President Jane Costello thanked the Femfatales for instigating “this important day and for their ongoing support of, and advocacy for, women in Australia who live with HIV”.

Costello said such an event provided an opportunity to “shine a light” on women with HIV and the particular issues they face — such as stigma and isolation. “Around 10 percent of the population of people living with HIV in Australia are women. Yet women are largely invisible in our HIV response. Women with HIV are a minority who live with inequality, in silence and in secrecy,” she said. “That inequality, silence and secrecy feeds a climate of stigma and discrimination, as well as an assumption that HIV is simply not an issue for women.”

The Sydney event also saw the launch of a new resource for women living with HIV in Australia. Developed by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and the National Association of People Living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Living Well — Women with HIV features general information on HIV and how it affects women’s bodies. “If you are a woman living with HIV, or you want to know more about some of the specific issues and concerns of women with HIV, I highly recommend this resource to you,” said Costello.

Meanwhile, speaking at an event in Adelaide, Femfatales Chair Kath Leane called for the National Day of Women Living with HIV Australia to continue. “Our aim is to inspire, celebrate and advocate and give women living with HIV the platform to step up and be heard. We believe that holding a national day for women living with HIV is a good start,” she said. “Today we collectively take a stand in support of all women living with HIV throughout Australia. I look forward to meeting you again next year for an even bigger event … from little things big things grow.”

BY CHRISTOPHER KELLY