World AIDS Day is marked internationally on 1 December.
In 2018 the World AIDS Day national theme is Everybody counts.
This is a time to raise awareness in the wider community about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. It is a day to demonstrate support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died. Wearing a red ribbon is a way that you can show solidarity and raise awareness of HIV.
This is also a time when we remember the members of the bleeding disorder community who were affected by HIV when in the mid-1980s HIV was transmitted through some batches of plasma-derived clotting factor treatment product.
In 2018 HIV continues to be a part of our community’s experience. For the family, friends, and carers of people who were lost to HIV/AIDS, we need to acknowledge the pain and grief that endures. We know from the family members we connect with that this remains a part of their life and it highlights how vital it is to create a supportive and inclusive environment for our community.
The losses over the years have also affected our community leaders and the teams in our Haemophilia Treatment Centres deeply, for these were children and adults they knew well. This came to the fore in recent interviews for our digital history project, where Jennifer Ross AO, former HFA Executive Director, Prof Kevin Rickard, former Haemophilia Treatment Centre Director at the Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney, reflected on their experiences during the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s and the sadness that remains for them. These digital stories will be available on the HFA website in 2019 and are a powerful account of the hardships as well as the successes in treatment and care for bleeding disorders over the last 50 years.
And what of the people with bleeding disorders who live on with the challenges of HIV? Anth McCarthy, one of our HIV positive community members, commented that for him, ‘World AIDS Day is about celebrating our survival through the dark years to this era of treatment, thriving, treatment as prevention, partners, children and grandchildren. We are not unscathed but we are still here and that is totally amazing and testament to our hard work, resilience and the love and support of our family, friends and community. And the hard work and dedication of the HIV and bloodborne virus sector locally, nationally, internationally.’
This year’s theme also reminds us about the difficulties for the people with HIV in some resource-poor settings around the world. In their goals for World AIDS Day in 2018, UNAIDS reports that we still have miles to go to ensure that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives. There are many people who do not have access to high quality treatment and care services, and who may not have HIV testing until they are ill and symptomatic because of stigma and discrimination and lack of access to confidential testing and counselling.
For more information about World AIDS Day, visit www.worldaidsday.org.au.
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