Today (March 9) is the inaugural National Day of Women Living with HIV Australia. Around 10 percent of the country’s HIV population is female, meaning there are currently an estimated 2,700 women living with HIV in Australia.
While the National Network of Women Living with HIV (Femfatales) believes this relatively low number is something to be celebrated, the flip side is that women living with HIV (WLHIV) are not considered a priority population in Australia.
As a result, women living with HIV often feel isolated, marginalised and invisible in the Australian HIV landscape. This negatively affects how WLHIV in Australia are funded and supported, which in turn limits the development of women-run facilitated events and support organisations.
“Too often, WLHIV in Australia are considered as an afterthought or swept up in the generic term ‘people living with HIV’,” said Femfatales Chair Kath Leane. “Women when not well supported will often go underground after diagnosis and hide in fear or shame of being constantly labelled, judged and stigmatised. This leaves a larger proportion of WLHIV dealing with their diagnosis alone.”
It is hoped that the initiation of a National Day of Women Living with HIV Australia will help raise the profile of WLHIV, reduce stigma and encourage women to test, help women understand that they are at risk and normalise HIV as a virus that impacts on all women in Australia.
“We hope this annual day on March 9 will raise the visibility of WLHIV in Australia,” said Leane. “The Femfatales aim to inspire, celebrate and advocate and give WLHIV the platform to step up and be heard. We believe that holding a National Day of Women Living with HIV Australia is a good start.”
Femfatales Chair Kath Leane 0410 707 923
National Association of People Living with HIV (NAPWHA) Executive Director Aaron Cogle 0468 438 214
NAPWHA is Australia’s peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV. NAPWHA provides advocacy, policy, representation, health promotion and outreach on a national level.