World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil

 

The Queensland AIDS Council is marking World AIDS Day with a Candlelight Vigil which will be held in Brisbane on Friday December1. Join us at 6.45pm at the Queen Street Mall stage (opposite Myer) to celebrate those who have gone before us and reflect on the impact HIV still has across our community.

Michael Scott, Executive Director of Queensland AIDS Council, spoke at the launch of AIDS Awareness Week, telling the assembled audience that “While HIV has changed, HIV is still with us in the present. We have over 6000 people living with HIV in Queensland. Each year 150 to 200 Queenslanders become HIV positive, and they are only the numbers we know about,” said Mr. Scott, who then went on to discuss the ongoing relevance of AIDS Awareness Week. He noted there have been many gains, including the 3000 places made available on the PrEP trial.

“The week is one of celebration –  recognising the great work that’s been done across Australia to prevent HIV. The week is one of commemoration and reflection – remembering loved ones who have died, and remembering the terrible impact HIV has had across our community. The week is one of recognition – recognising the role the whole community plays to promote HIV awareness and to challenge stigma and discrimination. Ultimately it’s a week to remember that HIV is still with us. HIV is still an issue within our community, and we face many challenges and opportunities ahead.” Mr Scott concluded his remarks stressing that “unless we ensure those gains are across the community, we will continue to struggle to end HIV transmission.”

Mr Scott will also speak at the Vigil on Friday night where he will be joined by Terry Butler MP – Federal Member for Griffith, Brisbane City Councillor Vicki Ward and Kirsten Lovejoy, recent candidate for the Queensland Greens. Personal stories from QuAC’s Gary Williams and others affected by and living with HIV will also be shared. The Brisbane Pride Choir and others will perform as the evening highlight – the candle lighting ceremony – takes place.

Mr Scott has taken the opportunity to remind us on World AIDS Day that “the challenge we also face is that as new notifications of HIV reduce, we run the risk of governments stepping away from their commitments to the virtual elimination of HIV. The deprioritization of HIV by governments and by our own community, is perhaps the greatest challenge we face over the next 5 years. On this day never forget the people who have passed of HIV and AIDS over the years. Please never forget the lessons we have learnt, and please let’s not be complacent about our future. Instead of seeing people as either HIV negative, or HIV positive, lets remind ourselves that we are all human, and that our similarities will always outweigh our differences.”

Come and show your support in person and help all of us celebrate and commemorate together.

 

AIDS Awareness Week Brisbane Launch

Today saw the launch of AIDS Awareness Week in the Queen Street Mall, Brisbane. Gary Williams, our World AIDS Day Co-ordinator, shared his personal journey with HIV which resonated deeply with the audience. He also introduced the two guest speakers, Michael Scott, Executive Director of QuAC and Simon O’Connor, Executive Officer of Queensland Positive People.

“While HIV has changed, HIV is still with us in the present. We have over 6000 people living with HIV in Queensland. Each year 150 to 200 Queenslanders become HIV positive, and they are only the numbers we know about,” said Mr. Scott, who then went on to discuss the ongoing relevance of AIDS Awareness Week. He noted there have been many gains, including the 3000 places made available on the PrEP trial.

“The week is one of celebration –  recognising the great work that’s been done across Australia to prevent HIV. The week is one of commemoration and reflection – remembering loved ones who have died, and remembering the terrible impact HIV has had across our community. The week is one of recognition – recognising the role the whole community plays to promote HIV awareness and to challenge stigma and discrimination. But ultimately it’s a week to remember that HIV is still with us. HIV is still an issue within our community, and we face many challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Mr Scott concluded his remarks stressing that “unless we ensure those gains are across the community, we will continue to struggle to end HIV transmission.”

QuAC Applauds PrEP Study Expansion

The Queensland AIDS Council welcomes today’s announcement that the QPrEP’d study is to be expanded to 3000 places.

PrEP (Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis) is a medication that we know prevents HIV transmission if taken as directed.

In early 2016, Hon Cameron Dick Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, announced the funding of 2000 places for the four year QPrEP’d study. The study has been particularly successful at getting PrEP to Queenslanders most at risk of HIV transmission, with 1970 people already accessing the QPreP’d study, and more still importing PrEP from overseas.

The Queensland AIDS Council has been integral to the success of the study, through direct enrolment of participants at Clinic 30 in Brisbane and Hervey Bay, and also through the statewide communication and promotion of the study. Through the peer driven community outreach conducted by QuAC and the range of health promotion targeting at risk communities, we have been able to ensure those of our community most at risk of HIV transmission were aware of the benefits of PrEP and the availability of free PrEP through the study.

“There is no doubt that PrEP has already prevented many new HIV notifications in Queensland, and we recognise the strong leadership taken by Mr Cameron Dick to invest further into HIV prevention in Queensland” said Michael Scott, Executive Director of Queensland AIDS Council.

The announcement of the expansion to the PrEP study follows the HIV Roundtable in Cairns involving clinicians, non- government organisations, researchers, affected community and government, focussing on Indigenous sexual health and in particular the prevention of HIV in North Queensland.

The Roundtable highlighted the meaningful involvement of community programs such as the 2 Spirits Program to prevent HIV transmission at a local Indigenous community level.

The 2 Spirits Program, funded for over 20 years to work with Indigenous gay men and sistergirls to prevent HIV transmission, was earlier this year defunded without evaluation by the Federal Department of Health.

“Because of the urgent need for health promotion, community development and prevention services to Indigenous community, particularly around availability of PrEP, we urge the appropriate resourcing of the 2 Spirits Program to ensure PrEP is made available equally to Indigenous Queenslanders,” said Scott.

For further information contact Michael Scott, Executive Director, Queensland AIDS Council on 0427 138 373 or [email protected]

ENDS

The Queensland AIDS Council was established in 1984 and is a community-based, not-for-profit, registered health promotion charity that works to improve the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Queenslanders, prevent HIV and bu ild the capacity of the community. Media Release – Queensland PrEP Study Expansion

QuAC Launches LGBTI Resilience Billboard Campaign

The Queensland AIDS Council is excited to announce the launch of their #LGBTIresilience campaign across Queensland.
The campaign aims to strengthen the Queensland LGBTI community’s resilience and mental health which is currently being tested by the conflicting positions, media coverage and political debate around marriage equality.

Download the media release here:
Media Release – #LGBTIResilience Campaign Launch

Our LGBTI Resilience Campaign

#LGBTIresilience

Welcome to the #LGBTI Resilience Campaign.

The campaign was developed by Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) to highlight and promote the importance of resilience for LGBTI people and community. QuAC has been supporting the resilience of the LGBTI community since 1984.

The campaign recognises the strength and diversity of our entire LGBTI community. We have faced many challenges, and whilst there will always be some who seek to discriminate, we can be sure that we will draw strength from this as we have done so in the past.

As individuals, and as a community we are powerful. We are diverse. We are resilient.

The LGBTI community is entering into a challenging time. Many of us have already seen and experienced the hurtful and damaging messages put to LGBTI people on social media, at work, or through our family units. As a community, we are facing challenges to our mental health, challenges to our wellbeing, and challenges to our lives.

It’s time to reclaim our mental health and to reclaim the strength that we as a community bring as LGBTI people. We can now use the recent challenges to our community to make us stronger, more creative, and more resilient.

During these times of challenge, it is important to look after yourself as individuals and as a community.

Here are a few practical steps to build resilience, and to support one another:

Log off Social Media

  • It is OK and sometimes important to walk away from social media. The comments we read and the pictures you see can be hurtful.

Stay Active

  • Work within your own means and your own fitness levels. Try to do something active, whether it be going outside, going to the gym, going for a walk, or go dancing. Do an activity that you really enjoy doing.

Recognise your Feelings

  • Recognise and understand your reactions to situations. Now is a good time to step back and take time to acknowledge how you feel, and think about why the words or images are affecting you. Be mindful of how your actions impact on others (sometimes positively).

Connect with People

  • Now is a great time to connect with friends, family, or people who are supportive and encouraging. Now is a great time to make friends, or to join a social group. Surrounding yourself with positive, empowering people is a great way to build resilience.

Eat and Sleep Well

  • Make sure you are taking time for yourself, by eating well and getting enough sleep. A good night’s sleep can be great for the mind and spirit, and can reset the mind for the day ahead.

Relax

  • Relaxing is often much harder than we realise. Take time to relax. Take time to focus on taking a few deep breaths, meditate, or even go to your local park with your favourite book. Take some time out for you.

Support Others Around You

  • Supporting others can be empowering not only for you but for others as well. Support the community. It’s times like these when your passion is reignited. Reach out to your local LGBTI community group, or sports club, or maybe put up your hand as a volunteer. We all have something to offer and as a community we are powerful.

Be Creative

  • A great way to be resilient is to distract your mind from the situation, and refocus on something you love doing. Writing, painting, drawing, or doing yoga are all great examples of unleashing your inner creativity.

Head over to our campaign site at www.lgbtiresilience.com to see more.

HAPPY PRIDE from all of us

Welcome to the new website of the Queensland AIDS Council. Launching at BRISBANE PRIDE seems the perfect place for us to start our new look digital presence as we re-invigorate our digital footprint. Over time we will grow the resources available on this site and evolve its content with the aim of becoming the go-to health and wellbeing portal for the LGBTI community across Queensland. Apart from the services and resources on offer we have very consciously chosen to also create a space where our community stories can be told, and we can keep all of you up to date on what QuAC is doing and the health promotion campaigns that are most current. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work we do, the following is an overview of the past year and a summary of what QuAC has accomplished.

It’s fair to say that a majority of media attention on LGBTI issues has been focussed this year on marriage equality, and it is somewhat unbelievable that Australia still does not have marriage equality in 2017. Marriage equality is an important issue to QuAC because ultimately it is a health and human rights issue that impacts on thousands of LGBTI Queenslanders. Moving forward, the organisation is deeply concerned about the impact a postal survey, a plebiscite, or any other form of “vote” on our personal lives will make on the community’s mental health.

There has been significant progress in other health areas however. 2016/17 saw the successful implementation of the QPrEPd study, which aimed at providing PrEP to 2000 Queenslanders who were most at risk of HIV transmission. Uptake for the study was significant, and QuAC enlisted 100 people in only 4 weeks by late 2016, with now just over 350 people accessing Clinic 30 for PrEP. Statewide QuAC was pivotal to ensuring Queenslanders became aware of PrEP – something we have been doing for years now through www.comeprepd.info. To date just on 1800 people have been registered for the study.

Clinic 30 has continued to grow throughout the year, with each clinician now at capacity. Providing services to just on 400 people a month, Clinic 30 has established itself as a central part of Brisbane’s HIV and STI testing and treatment, and mental health service delivery. People are attracted to the service because it is a peer based, professional, confidential and LGBTI focussed clinic providing an extensive range of services to LGBTI community members.   

In early 2016, Clinic 30 recognised a number of people were accessing the clinic from Hervey Bay and surrounding areas, with many reporting a lack of services in their region. In response, QuAC worked with the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre, and community members to create an expansion of Clinic 30 within Hervey Bay. The QuAC Hervey Bay Clinic opened its doors in April 2017, and is already well utilised. We know the service we are providing is already reducing the incidence of HIV and STIs within the region.

It has been a particularly challenging year for the 2 Spirits Program. In February 2017, QuAC received notification from the Commonwealth that the funding for the 20 year program would cease by the end of the financial year. Funding was also ceased for the similar project within NTAHC. What followed was a significant advocacy campaign to save the projects, with meetings held in Canberra with Federal MPs. In Senate Estimates on 3rd March, the Department admitted the program was defunded without any evaluation, and without any opportunity for feedback. Ultimately, the Department of Health indicated that “sexual and reproductive health was primarily a state and territory responsibility”, and the funding to date has not been renewed.  Despite the lack of funding, QuAC has agreed to continue the 2 Spirits program for another 12 months.

Healthy Communities Programs have enjoyed a very successful year, with Inclusivity and Consultancy Training being oversubscribed throughout the year, and with demand continuing to build. In total over 1000 people have been trained across a series of professions, thus improving the services from these professionals to LGBTI people.

The Seniors Community Visitors Scheme, now in its 5th year, undertook 292 client visits of LGBTI people who otherwise would be socially isolated. The project, supported by a team of volunteer visitors highlights the importance of our work with volunteers to meet people in our community that otherwise would not be accessed.

This year saw the employment of a Trans Health Worker, following the growing demand for trans and gender diverse services across the sector. Whilst not a funded position, QuAC recognises the need for trans services and service delivery and made a commitment to create this position and build our services into the trans community. 2016 saw the first Transgender World AIDS Day event, and the inaugural Trans Community Awards, recognising services to the trans community across Queensland.   

Our outreach to communities around health promotion has continued throughout the year, with outreach now happening across Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba, and now Hervey Bay. A team of volunteers now promotes our sexual health messaging on a weekly basis, and is easily able to adapt to the changing community. In addition to a presence in pubs and clubs, we continue to conduct health promotion messaging through social media, online media, and phone apps where our communities meet. Our online PrEP campaign www.comeprepd.info remains a significant source of information for people accessing PrEP, and our new online campaign #ready4sex will continue to provide health promotion messaging to our community.

QuAC remained central to the needs, rights and advocacy for LGBTI health throughout 2016/17, and will no doubt continue to do so throughout the next year. With challenges around marriage equality, with PrEP still not available on the PBS and with ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people, there is still a lot of work to be done through the coming year. I want to thank our staff and volunteers for their hard work and commitment to LGBTI health throughout the year and highlight the impact all are making to a safer, more inclusive Queensland for LGBTI people throughout 2018.   

Michael Scott, Executive Director

Queensland AIDS Council

Strengthening Our Community, Cairns Tropical Pride

The Cairns Festival’s Grand Parade holds a very special place in our community. It’s a time that we come together, we watch as lovingly prepared floats waft down the esplanade, greeted by cheers of youngsters and their families. Friends who have grown up in Cairns say that it’s a tradition that sticks with you through to adulthood; much like fond memories of an easter egg hunt at easter or playing with your cousins at Christmas.

Could this community parade be the perfect platform to show our town the best of our community? Could it be possible to showcase the best parts of our diverse LGBT+ communities in one parade float? After all, there are so many colours, shades and flavours within our communities that in larger cities there are entire parades put together just for LGBT+ people and their supporters. What is our commonality that brings us together? We aren’t like the other groups in the parade, who might gather weekly to practice dancing, perform in a band or play sports. We are more complex than this.

Our community has wrestled with this complexity for a number of years, and have entered floats into the community parade many times. This year, under the guidance of Cairns Tropical Pride, we have entered our most well received float yet — and for once, we showcased our differences not just our commonalities.

Never before have I seen drag queens co-mingling with leather clad motorcyclists, outrageous costumes interspersed with plain clothes wearers, community elders speaking to community youngsters, macho gay men alongside our trans identifying brothers and sisters, Mr Leather mixing with Mr Feather. We united around our passions and our loves, everyone expressing their heart in a way that is true to them. No sashes, no uniforms, no sameness — our difference was allowed to shine through.

There is one symbol that unites us though — the rainbow flag. It’s six bright colours woven together like a rainbow tapestry symbolising difference and cohesion. Each colour wouldn’t work on its own, the colour sitting next to it helps to define the brightness, saturation, vigour and identity of the next colour. Each colour meaning something different to each person, but when flown together they mean something very special – Love for all and pride in our difference.

Cairns Tropical Pride is the custodian of the largest LGBT+ rainbow flag in Australia. This symbol of our pride and diversity was the centrepiece of our community float for this year’s Cairns Festival Grand Parade. It’s so big that we all needed to work together to keep it afloat! Everyone pitched in to help move our symbol of love and pride through the parade route. Surrounding the giant flag there was music, dancing and joy. Motorcyclists revved their engines, Drag Queens mimed along to the music, girls and boys sashayed, we all let go of our reservations and the night was brought to life.

For some of us, it was the first time to own our belonging to the LGBT+ community so publicly. It was confronting to think that we were going to parade infant of the wider community our sexuality. For some of us, it was just another parade with some bright colours, not having straight passing privilege in our everyday lives. I’m glad today that by all reports, those first-timers found the experience both liberating and exciting. 

Along the parade route, you could see people’s faces light up as they saw our float. The motorcycles would roar past, followed by a river of joyful people celebrating their difference, united around our rainbow flag. You could see a couple nay-sayers in the crowd but they were in the minority. For a fleeting moment, it felt like we may have won the battle for acceptance in our community — to be embraced and treated as people of value to the Cains region. 

For the young people watching our float in the parade, I have some hopes and dreams: I hope that they may see the joy that comes with accepting who you are without reservation. I know our joyful dancing and celebration reflected the freedom that comes with accepting others just as they are. We are all different and all united in our love. 

If the Cairns Festival Parade does indeed hold a special place in young hearts, that it might sit alongside memories of other valued family traditions, I am proud that we could be part of it. For us all, it’s worth showing our love through this endeavour, even if it’s a bit confronting at first. Expressions like this is how real change is created in the hearts of our straight allies and how we can showcase the best parts of our diverse LGBT+ communities. 

Congratulations to Cairns Tropical Pride, their supporters and volunteers, who won 2nd place in the best float competition. Cairns Tropical Pride Festival runs Sep 30 – Oct 8.

More info: cairnstropicalpride.com