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2019

04 Dec 2019

Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival win a 2019 VicHealth Award

Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival were last night presented with a 2019 VicHealth Award for their work in supporting the LGBTIQ+ community to become smokefree.

Held annually, the VicHealth Awards are the state’s highest accolade for health promotion, celebrating organisations working to create a healthier Victoria.

The Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival project took out the award in the Preventing Tobacco Use category for their work in raising awareness of high smoking rates in the Victorian LGBTIQ community and empowering the community to make positive changes.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said the Quit team was thrilled to receive the award alongside two dedicated organisations promoting wellbeing in LGBTIQ communities.

“LGBTIQ communities are likely to experience a higher health, social and financial burden with smoking rates nearly three times higher than the national average. It was important that Quit partner with the LGBTIQ sector to start a conversation with LGBTIQ communities and ensure members who smoke are given the support they need to become smokefree”, Dr Sarah White said.

Thorne Harbour Health Chief Executive Officer Simon Ruth was also delighted with the award. “Thorne Harbour Health’s partnership with Quit Victoria and Melbourne Queer Film Festival recognises a shared goal of reducing the impact of smoking in our communities. The initiative takes a comprehensive approach, including community engagement and co-design activities and service delivery change to ensure LGBTIQ community members get the support they need. The partnership demonstrates that with shared leadership and expertise, people can be supported to become smokefree.”

A key component of the initiative, according to Melbourne Queer Film Festival Chief Executive Officer Maxwell Gratton, was to provide emerging creatives the opportunity to produce short films highlighting the impact of smoking on LGBTIQ communities and to create relevant messages to change attitudes to smoking. “Our unique short film competition, now in its second year, has given people the opportunity to have their work shown before every screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. To have also received a VicHealth Award acknowledging this work is very exciting.”

More information about the ‘Supporting LGBTIQ communities to become smokefree’ initiative can be found in the VicHealth Awards Finalist Gallery here and at quit.org.au/lgbtiq.

For more quitting advice, visit quit.org.au or call the Quitline on 13 7848. As part of this award-winning work, Quit counsellors have been trained to deliver smoking cessation advice to the LGBTIQ community in a culturally appropriate and accessible way. Quitline counsellors offer personalised, empathetic and non-judgemental support throughout a person’s quitting journey.

17 Nov 2019

Thorne Harbour Health Celebrates Diversity in Landmark AGM

Thorne Harbour Health’s annual general meeting confirmed that the organisation, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is one of the most inclusive and diverse LGBTI organisations in the country. As part of the proceedings, the 27th Keith Harbour Address was delivered by the 2019 International Mr Leather, Jack Thompson, the first openly HIV positive trans person to deliver the keynote address. The event also saw the announcement of the Thorne Harbour Health Awards, recognising significant contributions to advancing the health and wellbeing of LGBTI communities and people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Jack Thompson is the first trans person of colour to win the title of International Mr Leather in its 40-year history. Mr Thompson has also been public about being a person living with HIV. His “You Are Enough” speech at IML 2019 challenged the stigma, discrimination, and transphobia he has faced and was widely shared on social media. Prior to winning his title, Mr Thompson has been a sexual health educator and peer test facilitator. He has embraced this broader public platform to advance the community conversation and advocate for the health and wellbeing of trans and gender diverse communities, people of colour, and PLHIV.

“Jack’s leadership demonstrates that real progress in addressing stigma can be achieved through bravery, intelligence and inclusion. Jack is a great example to us all,” said Thorne Harbour President Chad Hughes.

Mr Hughes’ address at the AGM emphasised both the growth of the services that Thorne Harbour now provides and its strength through the diversity of its staff as well as it’s passionate volunteer base.

Sunday’s meeting also saw the recognition of a number of significant contributions from leaders and volunteers whose work contributes to the health and wellbeing of our community.

These included Life Memberships to community personality and volunteer Luke Gallagher as well as community activist and former THH (then VAC) president, Kirsty Machon.

The President’s Award went to Joseph Tesoiero for his work in addressing financial barriers to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the community.

Journalist David Marr received the Media Award for his work on human rights, homophobic violence and corruption in the church.

Special Service Awards went to:

  • Nathan Despott in recognition of his founding of the Brave Network to support LGBTI people of faith
  • Renea and Charlotte Johnson for their tireless volunteerism in support of Thorne Harbour
  • Greg Axtens for his work advocating on behalf of LGBTI people living with a disability
  • Caitlin Grigsby for improving the lives of regional LGBTI people through the Gippsland Pride Initiative

This year’s Greig Friday Young Leader Award went to Jason Choi for his commitment to and work with the Peer Education Program at Thorne Harbour.

“It’s fantastic to see such a diverse range of individuals being recognised for, not only their significant contribution to the organisation, but their desire to see a better place for LGBTI people in our community,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

14 Nov 2019

Four finalists announced for QuitFlicks short film competition

Four talented filmmakers have been selected to bring to life their short film concept challenging smoking among LGBTIQ communities as part of this year’s QuitFlicks competition, launched by Quit Victoria, Melbourne Queer Film Festival and Thorne Harbour Health.

Smoking rates in the LGBTIQ community are more than double the national average. Recent qualitative research with community members showed there are several key reasons for this difference; smoking within the LGBTIQ community is used to cope with social anxiety and smokes are a way to connect with others socially, as well as managing stress in people’s lives.

QuitFlicks asked filmmakers to address these challenges and find alternatives to coping and connecting without cigarettes.

After receiving submissions from filmmakers across Australia, four concepts were selected by a panel of judges from Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Thorne Harbour Health, Quit Victoria and creative agency, Catch the Bird. Each finalist will be granted $6,000 to turn their creative concept into a short film. The selected submissions took a distinct and imaginative approach to respond to the brief. Among the concepts chosen, the approach varied greatly, ranging from humorous to thoughtful.

Quit Victoria Director, Sarah White said she was delighted with the high calibre of submissions. “The quality of the scripts made it extremely difficult to select only four. We’re confident in the finalists’ abilities to bring their diverse pitches to life and looking forward to viewing the final product.”

MQFF Program Director, Spiro Economopoulos was similarly impressed. “The creativity and originality of the finalists’ pitches makes us really excited to see these concepts brought to life on screen. It’s a reflection of the incredible creative talent we have in this country.”

Thorne Harbour Health Chief Executive Officer, Simon Ruth, has been inspired by the diversity of approaches adopted by the filmmakers. “Each concept explores a very different way to combat smoking in our LGBTIQ communities and all four tackle a very serious topic in an ingeniously imaginative way.”

The four finalists are:

  • Teddy Darling (Balwyn, Victoria)
  • Millie Hayes (O’Connor, ACT)
  • Hugh Murray (Mount Helen, Victoria)
  • Rosie Pavlovic (East Brunswick, Victoria)

Each finalist will receive a $6,000 grant to develop their written concept into a short film. The public will then get their chance to vote for their favourite film commencing in mid-January via quit.org.au/quitflicks.

The winner and a runner-up will be announced at MQFF’s Program Launch on Tuesday 11 February and will be awarded a prize of $6,000 and $3,000 respec

11 Nov 2019

Public Cervix Announcement new campaign highlights safe inclusive cervical screening for LGBTIQ people

A campaign launching today aims to support LGBTIQ people aged 25-74 to take part in cervical screening with a simple message: whatever your sexual or gender identity, if you have a cervix, then you need cervical screening every five years.

 Cancer Council Victoria and Thorne Harbour Health, a leading LGBTIQ health organisation, are joining forces on the campaign, Public Cervix Announcement, to highlight the inclusive screening options that are available for members of the LGBTIQ community in order to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.

New data from the Trans Health and Cancer Care Study[i] reveals that only 18.7% of trans and gender diverse Australians reported being regular screeners and 54.3% had never had a Cervical Screening Test. For those with a cervix who had never screened, over half responded that this was because it is emotionally traumatic for them and two out of five were not comfortable with healthcare providers.

Further, recent Cancer Council Victoria research shows that about 1 in 5 Victorians with a cervix who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, same sex attracted, transgender, or who have an intersex variation, have never had a Pap test (the former method of cervical screening)[ii]. From this research, the top two reasons LGBTIQ Victorians didn’t undergo cervical screening is because they were embarrassed or frightened, or because they thought they did not need to.

Screening, Early Detection and Immunisation Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, Kate Broun, said the campaign will highlight the importance of regular screening and will hopefully increase screening participation rates within the LGBTIQ community.

“We’re really excited to partner with Thorne Harbour Health to spread the message to the LGBTIQ community that if you have a cervix, you need a cervical screening test, no matter who you have had as a sexual partner,” Ms Broun said.

“The campaign is a Public Cervix Announcement that everyone with a cervix is at risk of cervical cancer, and if you’re aged 25-74, regular screening is the best way to protect yourself.”

The campaign creative will run across digital and print and features a diverse range of talent; including Sandy Anderson, a registered nurse and passionate campaigner for inclusive cervical screening, and Aram Hosie, a well-known national and international advocate for LGBTIQ rights.

Women’s Health Project Lead at Thorne Harbour Health, Rachel Cook, said “As an LGBTIQ community-controlled organisation, we believe our responses need to be developed by our community. We wanted the imagery across this campaign to be authentic, representative and relevant.”

“We are proud to support this campaign to increase participation in cervical screening and ultimately reduce cervical cancer rates within the LGBTIQ community.”

Campaign Supporter Sandy Anderson emphasises that, “Whatever your sexual or gender identity, if you have a cervix then you need cervical screening. Seek out a health practitioner that you would be comfortable going to for a cervical screen or speak to your friends in the community for recommendations.”

To find out more about the Cervical Screening Program and the options available for LGBTIQ people, visit cervicalscreening.org.au/LGBTIQ or speak to a GP or health professional.

Public Cervix Announcement Signs Held by Community members

[i]Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society surveyed 537 trans and gender diverse people from across Australia over the age of 18 in 2018-19: http://bit.ly/2PNEXSV

[i][i] Cancer Council Victoria commissioned a survey of 303 Victorians with a cervix, who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, same sex attracted, transgender, or who have an intersex variation, in 2016.

To organise an interview with Kate Broun or Rachel Cook, please contact Claire Russell on 03 9514 6847. Campaigners featured on our postcard are also available for interview: (from left to right) Aram Hosie, Sandy Anderson, Mishma Kumar.

Cancer Council Victoria is a non-profit organisation involved in cancer research, prevention, and support. At Cancer Council Victoria we work to prevent cancer, empower patients and save lives, and we are committed to reducing inequalities in cancer outcomes. For more information visit: https://www.cancervic.org.au/

Thorne Harbour Health is a community-controlled organisation, governed by our members, and working for our sex, sexuality and gender diverse communities. For more information, visit: https://thorneharbour.org/

Public Cervix Announcement is a campaign created by Cancer Council Victoria in partnership with Thorne Harbour Health, launching during National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week for ten days across digital and print.

07 Nov 2019

Supporting LGBTIQ communities to become smokefree

Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival were today announced as a finalist in the VicHealth Awards, Preventing Tobacco Use category. The VicHealth Awards are the state’s highest accolade for health promotion, celebrating organisations working to create a healthier Victoria.

The nomination acknowledged the work undertaken by Quit in partnership with Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival in supporting LGBTIQ communities to become smokefree.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said, “LGBTIQ communities are likely to experience a higher health, social and financial burden with smoking rates nearly three times higher than the national average. It was important that Quit partner with the LGBTIQ sector to start a conversation with the LGBTIQ community and ensure members who smoke are given the support they need to become smokefree”.

One of the key outcomes has been to train Quitline counsellors to provide a safe and supportive service to LGBTIQ community members.

“The award nomination acknowledges the work of dedicated organisations promoting wellbeing in Victorian LGBTIQ communities. The awards recognise some of the most influential health promotion work being undertaken in Victoria. It’s a privilege to be considered as part of that group,” Dr Sarah White said.

Thorne Harbour Health Chief Executive Officer Simon Ruth was equally delighted with the nomination. “Thorne Harbour Health’s partnership with Quit Victoria and Melbourne Queer Film Festival recognises a shared goal of reducing the impact of smoking in our communities. The initiative takes a comprehensive approach, including community engagement and co-design activities and service delivery change to ensure LGBTIQ community members get the support they need. The partnership demonstrates that with shared leadership and expertise, people can be supported to become smokefree.”

Another key component of the initiative was to provide emerging creatives the opportunity to produce short films highlighting the impact of smoking on LGBTIQ communities and to create relevant messages to change attitudes to smoking.

Melbourne Queer Film Festival Chief Executive Officer Maxwell Gratton reflected on the collaboration that launched the unique short film competition Keep the Vibe Alive, which has continued for a second year running as QuitFlicks. “It has been fantastic supporting emerging creatives to share the impact of smoking from the perspective of LGBTIQ communities and to give people the opportunity to have their work shown before every screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival.”

More information about the ‘Supporting LGBTIQ communities to become smokefree’ initiative can be found in the VicHealth Awards Finalist Gallery here.

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For more quitting advice, visit quit.org.au or call the Quitline on 13 7848. Quit Specialists are trained to deliver smoking cessation advice to the LGBTIQ community in a culturally appropriate and accessible way.

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria. For more information, visit: www.quit.org.au

Melbourne Queer Film Festival is Australia’s oldest and largest LGBTIQ film festival and celebration of the moving image. For more information, visit: www.mqff.com.au

Thorne Harbour Health is a community controlled organisation, governed by our members, and working for our sex, sexuality and gender diverse communities. For more information, visit: https://thorneharbour.org/

20 Aug 2019

Call for Parliamentary Inquiry into Hate Crimes in Victoria

Thorne Harbour Health has joined Dowson Turco Lawyers (DTL) and Victorian freelance journalist Seb Starcevic to call for a parliamentary inquiry into historical and contemporary institutional responses to hate crimes in Victoria aimed at LGBT communities.

This follows a similar NSW inquiry convened in 2018 as well as yesterday’s apology from Victoria Police for historical harms to LGBTI communities.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “While we acknowledge that Victoria Police and others are trying to do the right thing, an important part of this reconciliation is knowing what they’re apologising for.”

“An inquiry into Victoria’s institutional response should take the justice system into account but also institutions like hospitals. We have received community feedback that for many, their distrust in ‘the system’ starts there.”

Nicholas Stewart, partner at DTL, said, “As an LGBTI law firm we are always looking to make society safer and more inclusive for LGBTI communities across Australia. But that objective requires consideration of the wrongs of the past and learning from those errors so that laws are drafted to guarantee our communities’ safety.”

Investigative journalist, Seb Starcevic said:, “Through my research, I have discovered that, as in New South Wales, dozens of gay men in Victoria were assaulted and in some cases killed simply for being gay. One of these men was Brent Everett, a 29-year-old aspiring artist who was stomped to death in a Geelong public toilet in 1988. After talking to Brent’s family, I learned the wounds from these acts of murderous homophobia are still raw decades later.”

Nicholas Stewart added, “DTL is grateful for the investment of the NSW Parliament in relation to this issue, and we are now deeply considering the interim report from the inquiry of 2018. It is important that Victoria follows suit because the LGBTI communities in that state are just as significant as those in NSW and are looking to their government for acknowledgement of enduring pain and significant vulnerability.”

13 Jun 2019

Thorne Harbour congratulates Victorians for leading the way in LGBTI inclusion in sport

Last night’s 2019 Pride in Sport Awards saw Victorian organisations and individuals recognised for leading the way in LGBTI inclusion in Australian sport including Melbourne University Sport, Tennis Australia, Cricket Victoria, St Kilda Football Club, and David Kyle from North Gippsland Football & Netball League.

As part of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, Pride in Sport is the only sporting inclusion program specifically designed to assist Australian sporting organisations and clubs with LGBTI inclusion. Its world-first Pride in Sport Index (PSI) benchmarks and assesses the inclusion of LGBTI people across all sporting contexts.

“Last night showcased some of the great work being done for LGBTI inclusion in sport and Victorian organisations and individuals continue to scoop the pool of major awards,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

Last night’s Victorian wins closely follow RMIT University taking out the top prize as 2019 Employer of the Year for LGBTI inclusion at last month’s Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards as part of Pride in Diversity.

2019 PSI Awards last night included:

  • Highest Ranking Overall - Melbourne University Sport & Tennis Australia (joint winners)
  • Highest Ranking SSO - Cricket Victoria
  • Highest Ranking Professional Club - St Kilda Football Club
  • LGBTI Ally Award - David Kyle, North Gippsland Football & Netball League

“We’re seeing some remarkable progress in sporting organisations bringing about meaningful change in how they engage and include our LGBTI communities. We congratulate everyone contributing to these efforts,” said Simon Ruth.

“Huge efforts have gone into addressing homophobia in sport, and while there’s still work to be done, we’re seeing progress. Moreover, this morning’s release of the Guidelines for the Inclusion of Transgender and Gender Diverse People in Sport by Sport Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Coalition of Major Professional & Participation Sports is taking steps to make sure we bring all our LGBTI communities along with us as we move forward into a more inclusion future.”

The National Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport were launched in Melbourne earlier today.

06 Jun 2019

Release of TGA decision regarding ‘amyl’ raises questions for community

Today the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has handed down its decision regarding alkyl nitrites, commonly known as ‘amyl’ or ‘poppers’. Thorne Harbour Health recognises that the decision demonstrates the power of community advocacy but expresses concerns for the short term implications.

Late last year, the TGA postponed the release of any decision after community backlash over the possibility of alkyl nitrites being scheduled alongside prohibited drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. In response, the TGA accepted written submissions and held a series of public consultation sessions earlier this year to allow for community feedback and gain a better understanding of how alkyl nitrites are used.

“The fact that we’ve seen Australia turnaround from a decision to ban amyl is actually quite remarkable,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

“It’s really a testament to our community’s continued legacy of mobilisation and activism. We can’t take that for granted as other parts of the world haven’t been so successful.”

The TGA decision posted this morning directly mentions that the community submissions and public meetings were taken into consideration as it determined:

  • Amyl nitrites will be classified as Schedule 3 “when in preparations for human therapeutic use and packaged in containers with child-resistant closures” — meaning they can be purchased from behind the counter at a pharmacist pending appropriate packaging.
  • Isoamyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite and octyl nitrite will remain on schedule 4 — effectively restricting them to ‘prescription only’ access.
  • Isopropyl nitrite & n-propyl nitrite will be classified as Schedule 10 - prohibiting them from sale, supply, and use due to the potential health risks of temporary or permanent retinal maculopathy.

This decision goes into effect from February 2020. While this means amyl nitrite may eventually be available through pharmacies, there are no products currently on the market for this purpose in Australia.

“This a reasonably good outcome, but we’re concerned about what this will mean in the next year. It may be two years before we see amyl nitrites in the marketplace,” said Simon Ruth.

“We’re going to potentially see affected communities fall into a grey area. We’re now calling on state governments to work with the community to ensure that we don’t see gay men and other men who have sex with men criminalisied for possession and use of amyl in the meantime.”

The TGA decision is publically available online: https://www.tga.gov.au/scheduling-decision-final/final-decisions-matters-referred-march-2019-joint-acms-accs-meeting.

13 May 2019

Thorne Harbour extends support to community following incident at Hares & Hyenas

Following reports of the police raid at Hares & Hyenas over the weekend, Thorne Harbour Health is reminding the community to seek support during this distressing time.

In the early hours of Saturday 11 May, it has been reported that LGBTI community hub, Hares & Hyenas, was raided by Victoria Police. The police mistakenly arrested LGBTI artist Nik Dimopoulos who sustained serious injuries.

While the incident is now under investigation, Thorne Harbour Health acknowledges that this incident is distressing for many in our LGBTI communities and encourages those who need support to contact the organisation’s Counselling Services. Thorne Harbour Health, in partnership with Lifeworks, will be offering community debriefing for community members effected by the incident.

“Our LGBTI communities have a long and complicated relationship with the police. While we’ve seen some significant progress, an incident like this sets us back,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

“This is understandably distressing for many in our LGBTI communities, and support is available for those who need it.”

“Thorne Harbour Health has enjoyed a long-term partnership with both Hares and Hyenas and Nik Dimopoulos. We’re saddened to see such an unfortunate incident take place in what’s meant to be a safe space for so many in our community. We wish Nik a speedy recovery to good health and send our sympathy to Rowland & Crusader in the face of such a distressing time.”

To participate in the Community Debriefing please register your interest with our counselling service by calling (03) 9865 6700 or 1800 134 840 (free call for country callers). If community members are unsure, they’re encouraged to call Thorne Harbour’s counselling service Client Liaison/Duty worker between 10AM-4PM Monday-Friday.

For peer-driven support, community members are also encouraged to contact Switchboard on 1800 184 527 or via webchat at www.switchboard.org.au, available from 3PM - 12AM daily.

17 Apr 2019

LGBTI communities strongly encouraged to participate in the Royal Commission into Mental Health

Thorne Harbour Health and Rainbow Health Victoria are calling on Victoria’s LGBTI communities to take action and have their voice heard during the Royal Commission into Mental Health.

In addition to the community consultations already underway, earlier today the Victorian Government unveiled their online portal for community submissions to the Royal Commission into Mental Health.

Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) and Rainbow Health Victoria (formerly Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria) have developed consumer talking points to assist LGBTI individuals attending community consultations or making submissions via the government’s online portal. The new resource developed by the two organisations outlines recommendations for action as well as the background research to support each area for improving Victoria’s mental health system.

Recommendations outlined in the document include building upon the existing model to increase accessibility to community-controlled services as well as workforce development for mainstream services to ensure there is “no wrong door” for LGBTI Victorians to access the support they need to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

“With higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide compared to the general population, LGBTI Victorians need a mental health system that is welcoming and responsive to their needs. It’s vital that our voices are heard,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“We’ll only get our needs met if the government hears from us. If our communities are silent on this issue, we’ll never see progress.”

Rainbow Health Victoria’s Co-Director Dr Jen Power added, “It’s important that LGBTI communities are equipped with the research evidence to support what many of them already know — that LGBTI Australians are experiencing poor mental health outcomes, often associated with marginalisation, discrimination, stigma, violence, and abuse.”

Community consultation sessions are being held at various locations now through May, and registration closes at 5pm on the day before each consultation session. A full list of community consultations can be found at: rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/whats-happening-now.

Through the online portal (rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/submissions), people can submit formal submissions and brief comments. Brief comments will be accepted until 20 May 2019 and formal submissions will be accepted until 5 July 2019.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System – Consumer Talking Points document can be downloaded here.

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If you or someone you know requires support, contact Switchboard on 1800 184 527 (3pm-12am daily) or for Thorne Harbour Counselling Services, contact us on (03) 9865 6700 (9am-5pm daily).

For urgent assistance, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

29 Mar 2019

Thorne Harbour calls for community to take action against Brunei’s homophobic laws

Thorne Harbour Heath unequivocally condemns Brunei’s adoption of laws that include the barbaric treatment of sexuality and gender diverse people, and calls on the Australian Government as well as the broader community to take swift and decisive action to protect our gender, sex, and sexuality diverse communities. Under the new Brunei laws this includes people being whipped or stoned to death for offences like sodomy, blashemy and adultery.

The recent update (27 March 2019) on Australia’s SmartTraveller website advises:

“From 3 April 2019 the full sharia penal code (law) takes effect in Brunei. It applies to Muslims, non-Muslim and foreigners even when on Brunei registered aircraft and vessels. Under this code some offences can attract physical punishment while others attract executions.”

This is essentially state-sponsored brutality against people of diverse gender and sexuality and a violation of basic human rights — there’s no place for it.

Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth

“The Federal Government must immediately revoke Royal Brunei Airlines right to land in Australia to keep sexuality and gender diverse Australians safe from Brunei’s new laws. There should also be a review into the effectiveness of Government’s travel warnings for LGBTI people.”

As of this morning, the Government’s level of advice for those traveling to Brunei remains unchanged at ‘exercise normal safety precautions’. This raises serious questions about the utility of applying travel advice only at general level. Clearly the level of risk traveling to Brunei is high for gender and sexuality diverse people when they can soon face physical punishment and execution merely for being who they are. Travel warnings should clearly reflect this.

“It goes beyond government action - we need to take action collectively to say laws specifically punishing our LGBTI communities for being who they are have no place in society.”

In addition to calling on the Australian Government to rescind Royal Brunei’s permissions to fly to Australia, Thorne Harbour is calling on Melbourne Airport to no longer accept flights from Royal Brunei or refuel them as well as large travel centres like Flight Centre and STA Travel to immediately stop selling their flights.

Neil Pharaoh has organised an online petition, and the organisation is encouraging its members and the broader community to sign it in support of our LGBTI communities:

https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/ban-royal-brunei-airlines-from-australia

27 Mar 2019

Thorne Harbour releases clip explaining on-demand PrEP as HIV prevention strategy

With the recent increase in the community dialogue around on-demand PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy, Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) has released a video explaining how this alternative dosing option of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) works.

PrEP is a highly effective HIV prevention strategy that includes HIV negative individuals regularly taking HIV medication to prevent the acquisition of HIV. Following approval by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration in 2016, PrEP was added to Australia’s PBS in April 2018. While PrEP is typically taken daily to prevent the acquisition of HIV, research has shown that on-demand PrEP is an effective alternative for people who don’t have sex frequently or struggle to adhere to daily dosing.

On-demand PrEP includes taking two pills 2-24 hours before a sexual encounter and then a single pill 24 hours later and another 48 hours later. Additional dosing is necessary if you have additional sexual encounters during this 48 hour period. The video from Thorne Harbour explains the process in greater detail. On-demand PrEP dosing is included in the PrEP guidelines released by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM).

“We’re seeing an increased interest in using on-demand PrEP among the communities we work with, and it’s incredibly important that people understand how on-demand PrEP works before deciding to use this HIV prevention strategy,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

“We’re at a point in the epidemic where we’re starting to realise the full potential of biomedical prevention. PrEP, alongside undetectable viral load through effective treatment, is leading the way as the most effective strategy at stopping the onward transmission of HIV.”

“With nearly half a million PrEP users worldwide, PrEP is proven to be incredibly effective at preventing HIV. Here in Victoria, we have seen one of the most progressive community conversations around using this tool for HIV prevention,” said Thorne Harbour President Chad Hughes.

“We need to keep pace with the communities we serve and ensure we provide them with evidence-based information so they can make an informed choice about looking after their sexual health and wellbeing.”

Watch the on-demand PrEP video here.

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