‘Yes, women get HIV, too’ – Women share their stories for the National Day of Women Living with HIV

For this year’s National Day of Women Living with HIV, NAPWHA’s  National Network of Women Living with HIV is highlighting the need for women, particularly those who are sexually active, to include an HIV test in their regular health check-ups.

Seven members of the network share their inspiring stories to shine a light on the range of women who find themselves HIV positive, and to inspire others to know their status so they too can lead healthy, positive lives.

National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024
Jess T National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Jess.

Disclosing my status is always daunting. I fear how people might react. But I feel my life purpose now is to educate women that HIV is still out there. That it doesn’t discriminate. That everyone should be taking better care of their sexual health.

I was fortunate to be diagnosed early. That was three years ago and within a few months my treatment was working. I was informed that I couldn’t transmit HIV to a sexual partner or to my child if I chose to have one.

I never thought I’d get HIV, but I did. And if by talking about it, people end up going to their GP to get tested, then I’ve done my job as a woman living with HIV.

My name is Melania.

Shortly after arriving from Africa in 2019, I witnessed obvious shock when I asked a receptionist about volunteer vacancies as a woman living with HIV.

Since then, I have heard women, men, and even some clinical staff commenting that “only MSM” or “drug injecting women” are at risk of HIV.

That roused my interest to find out what women think here.

HIV awareness is very low among women in Australia. You could say they have a false sense of security. The rising number of late diagnoses among women can be attributed to this.

Riss L National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Riss.

I am a heterosexual woman who is embracing life with HIV.

Positive people come in all different shapes and colours, but we are united by the shared experience of living with HIV. While our stories differ, common themes of diagnosis trauma, rejection, and stigma persist.

I contracted HIV when I was 15 in 1988 and was diagnosed four years later. Today, I live positively; advocating for early diagnosis and treatment, and challenging stereotypes and discrimination. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning of your best self.

For this National Day of Women Living with HIV, let’s celebrate diversity, resilience and encourage everyone to know their status.

Chrissie National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Chrissie.

I am a woman, a mother, a mental health professional, and I am living and thriving with HIV.

I was diagnosed in 2000 and started treatment in 2009. Adherence to treatment has been my key to living a healthy, positive life with HIV. 

Undetectable equals Untransmittable.

At the time of my diagnosis, I had no symptoms at all. I was never sick. I never lost weight.

Not everyone gets symptoms. If you are sexually active, always include an HIV test with your STI screening.

Del B National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Del. 

Like most women, I never considered myself at risk of HIV. And like most women living with HIV, I contracted it through heterosexual activity.

When I was diagnosed, I worried whether I’d live to see my four-year-old daughter grow up.  Thanks to treatment, I have lived beyond the 10 years that wasn’t even a guarantee at the time and am now happily helping her plan her 30th birthday.

In hindsight, I was lucky.  Lucky because I was diagnosed with recently acquired HIV when I embarked on an IVF journey to try for a second child

HIV can and does happen to anyone. Women continue to be diagnosed, today. But thanks to available treatment and support, life can go on. 

 It is better to get tested and to know.

Diane L National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Diane.

I was diagnosed in 1986 and am so very lucky to still be here.

I have lived the changes and been part of better treatment and U=U. It is amazing that women can now safely have children, breastfeed, and not pass HIV on to their partners. These are things I didn’t have when I was younger.

Survival for me has been a combination of a great medical team—where we are true team, and I am part of the decision-making process—and the peer support of other amazing women with HIV.

Unfortunately, there is still misinformation out there and those in the medical profession can put their own values and beliefs on the information they share.

It is important that women are listened to when they ask for an HIV test as part of their overall check-up. Being ignored and a late diagnosis can affect your health for the rest of your life.

Michelle T National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 campaign

My name is Michelle.

I am a proud Yorta Yorta woman, a descendant of the Stolen Generation, and I was diagnosed with HIV in 1990.

At the time, I was given 10 years to live. My family walked away, leaving me with a six-month-old baby and no family support.

In 1992, I lost my husband to the same illness. I made the decision then that my eldest would not grow up alone, so by 1994 I was pregnant again.

Growing up in the country I didn’t hear about HIV until I moved to the city. I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. But women like you and me can get HIV, too.

Women Living Well

‘Living Well’ is a website set up with the support of NAPWHA’s National Network of Women Living with HIV and has information about some of the key issues for women with HIV.

Women’s day events in your states on 8th March 2024

Victoria

National Day of Women Living With HIV on International Women's Day 2024 Victoria

Morning Tea – National Day of Women Living With HIV on International Women’s Day – Friday, 8 March 2024

Venue: Positive Women Victoria, Ground floor, Coventry House, 95 Coventry Street, Southbank

Date & Time: Friday, 8 March – 10:30am to 12:00pm – morning tea provided. (RSVP for catering)

Join Positive Women Victoria to celebrate the annual National Day of Women Living With HIV, which is held on 9 March. This year, we will celebrate with a special morning tea on Friday, 8 March on International Women’s Day.

While connecting with PWV members, staff, volunteers and supporters and enjoying a delicious morning tea, we will celebrate the National Day of Women Living With HIV by showcasing the Body Of Knowledge exhibition from 2006 and the prints from the ‘Women Get HIV Too’ campaign, the theme for the 2024 National Day of WLHIV from the National Network of Women Living With HIV Australia.

New South Wales

National Day of Women Living With HIV on International Women's Day 2024 NSW

On Saturday 9 March 2024, Positive Life NSW will celebrate and honour the lives of all women living with HIV with friends and supporters at the annual National Day of Women living with HIV!

Support women living with HIV in a mixed social environment over a classic high tea, coffee and a range of tea selections, and hear from a range of speakers including clinicians and social workers supporting women living with HIV, and from women living with HIV themselves in celebration of the theme Women Get HIV Too!

Following the high tea, will be a Bring and Swap clothing exchange event of good quality clothes or accessories.  Women are invited to bring up to 3 items of pre-washed, clean, good quality clothing, bags, jewellery or accessories in good condition. No rips or tears (unless they’re part of the design of course!)

Please do not bring wigs, underwear, socks, swimwear, sports or activewear, anything stained, torn or unwashed, noticeably worn out, pilling or frayed items.

Guests will be limited to 3 items they can bring to exchange, and these will be checked and exchanged for tokens which then can be used to swap for items brought by someone else. Any items left over will be donated to a local charity to be rehomed.

Places limited to 50 guests – please RSVP early!

Date: Saturday 9 March 2024
Time: 2pm–4.00pm
Place: Parramatta, NSW
Register: (02) 8357 8386 or email contact@positivelife.org.au as soon as possible. Please advise your dietary needs (gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan) at the time of RSVP.

Queensland

National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 Queensland

Queensland Positive People is hosting a National Day of Women Living with HIV High Tea on Saturday 9th March 2024, 10:30am at 21 Manialla St, East Brisbane. RSVP is essential.

South Australia

National Day of Women Living with HIV 2024 South Australia

 

SAMESH is hosing a National Day of Women Living with HIV Morning Tea, on Friday 8 March, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm at SAMESH, 57 Hyde St, Adelaide,

Join us for morning tea as we acknowledge the National Day of Women Living with HIV (WLHIV).

Hear from community members discussing their experiences and better understand the needs of women living with HIV.

Western Australia

To the positive women of Perth you are invited to a high tea. To be held in Maylands. On Saturday 9th March to celebrate National Day of Women Living with HIV at 1pm.

Please RSVP by 5th March to Diane on 0436683575 or phone WAAC on 94820000.

Further details will then be given. Be great to enjoy your company.

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