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NAPWHA members and associates from all Australian States and Territories and New Zealand gathered for the annual general meeting in Sydney, on 26 October 2019, also co-jointly with AFAO members on 27 October 2019. Returning NAPWHA secretariat officer, Tim Leach, officially welcomed in the new NAPWHA board, including the appointment of Scott Harlum as President and Chris Howard as Secretary-Treasurer.  The warmest of welcomes were extended to Sydney-based Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF), Papua New Guinea’s Igat Hope Inc., and Estrela+ of Timor-Leste, which were admitted as associate members.

“The network of community-based organisations of people living with HIV which come together under the banner of NAPWHA membership are strengthened by the inclusion of our regional colleagues, and by BGF, which has been supporting people living with HIV since 1984,” stated NAPWHA President, Scott Harlum.

“The AGM program featured NAPWHA’s work to benefit people with HIV, but also highlighted issues in immigration and the criminal law where positive people continue to be singled out, treated differently, discriminated against, and where we still have much work to do.”

Find out below a summary of presentations forming the agenda of the AGM19:

  • Aaron Cogle’s Executive Director’s Report summarised the NAPWHA year of activities and operations framed within the organisational strategic goals. He bid a fond farewell to PozAction which held three meetings in 2019 in Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne. This group will be ceded from 2020 with the Organisational Leadership Group (formed by HIV sector advocates from NAPWHA membership organisations). People living with HIV (PLHIV) remains central to the HIV response in NAPWHA’s work with the HIV Health Literacy Framework project; the advocacy of developing national standards for Australian HIV peer support; and NAPWHA representation at the 2019 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference. NAPWHA’s advocacy contesting mandatory testing laws reform in Western Australia and New South Wales remains a staunch area of work. The publishing of four key NAPWHA resources synthesizes research to provide a strong evidence-base for work in HIV decriminalisation (see: The System is Broken – Audit of Australia’s Mandatory Disease Testing Laws); advocating for PLHIV who are ineligible for Medicare (see: Medicare ineligible PLHIV in Australia); our work direction for best practices to support PLHIV who are ageing (see: HIV and Ageing in Australia – The New Frontier); and a framework for HIV Stigma and Resilience.
  • Scott Harlum’s Treasurer’s Report on the year ending 30 June 2019 reporting, “NAPWHA has emerged reinvigorated from the difficulties of 2015/16 and is financially strong. Difficult decisions of the past have enabled a significant reinvestment in our human resources and the rapid re‐expansion of our organisation’s capacity.”
  • Clare Weston of NPS Medicine Wise presented study on the prevalence and risk of non-infectious co-morbidities in HIV+ and HIV- males attending general practice in Australia. The study concluded that men living with HIV have higher recorded rates of depression, anxiety, all cancer diagnoses, osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease than other men attending for primary care. Men living with HIV have lower rates of diagnosed diabetes, despite adjustment for age, rurality and socio-economic status. The research article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223224
  • Hayden Patterson of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union presented on the issues with the Cashless Welfare Card system, highlighting, “As peer-to-peer advocates and supporters, it is important to understand, educate and empower the people we represent, who are often some of the most vulnerable within our communities facing many barriers and obstacles to fit into their communities, and even thrive.” Hayden added, “When this card is rolled out nationally to ALL income support recipients, it will mean so many more members of our communities making tough choices such as which medication to sacrifice or prioritise, or how many meals they might skip simply because they are unable to afford, or access this.”
  • Jane Costello of Kirby Insitute UNSW provided a snapshot of the changing face of HIV in NSW and Australia through epidemiology data.
  • Adrian Ogier presented on a NAPWHA project aiming to focused on developing national standards for Australian HIV peer support based on the CATIE Practice Guidelines in Peer Health Navigation for People Living with HIV in Canada.
  • Miranda Smith of the Doherty Insititute’s Australian HIV Cure Community Partnership consulted with members on better conversations about HIV cure research, surveying their interest and knowledge about the HIV Cure website.
  • Hina Bhimani from the Australian Digital Health Agency provided ‘My Health Record’ information and training, including a step-by-step guide to customising the access controls. Consumers can access online On Demand Training to ‘My Health Record’ in a consumer portal “Sandpit Environment” which simulates the look and functionality of a consumer’s view of the ‘My Health Record’ system for a fictitious patient, and replicates many of the functions with which consumers may interact. Find out more
  • Members of The Institute of Many (TIM) urged members to join on their parade float in the forthcoming 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
  • Kathy Petoumenos from the Kirby Institute UNSW Sydney, spoke of PAWS (Prospective Ageing Well Study), a study aiming to recruit >4,000 older HIV+ and HIV- gay and bisexual men to explore and compare health and lifestyle patterns, and to have a better understanding of how they age​.
  • Kirsty Machon (Positive Women Victoria) and Richard Keane (Living Positive Victoria) led a consultation with members on project aiming to develop a large-scale Australian national campaign to combat HIV stigma.
  • Developments in research – molecular epidemiology and viral genomics was a panel session led by Robert Mitchell (NAPWHA) alongside Tony Kelleher (Kirby Institute UNSW), Sharon Lewin (Doherty Institute) and Aaron Cogle (NAPWHA) about what is molecular epidemiology and viral genomics; and how can we benefit from it and mitigate its risks.
  • Nurse-led models of care was a panel session led by Katy Roy (NAPWHA) alongside Melinda Hassall (ASHM), Danielle Collins (Nurse Practitioner; Alfred Health), Donna Tilley (Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre) and Vaughan McLachlan (Practice Nurse at Gladstone Road Medical Centre). The opportunity for nurses to provide broader services for our communities supports peer-led work and provides an alternative to physician-dependent models of care. The session explored existing and future nurse-led models of care and the benefits they offer.

The next members meeting will be in May 2020 for the Special General Meeting gathering in Sydney.

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