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2021

30 Nov 2021

40 Years On - Victoria sees a drop in HIV diagnoses amid COVID-19 pandemic

In the lead up to World AIDS Day 2021, Victoria records its lowest quarterly total of HIV diagnoses in 20 years. While likely impacted by the restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thorne Harbour Health emphasises the ongoing need for HIV testing.

Last week Victoria’s Department of Health reported 34 news cases of HIV for the third quarter of 2021, bringing the January to September total to 120 cases. Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth welcomes the news.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a continued decrease in HIV notifications in Victoria and further afield. As we come out of lockdown, we have a unique opportunity before us to maintain that momentum, but testing for HIV is key. By getting tested for HIV today, you can look after your sexual health and wellbeing as well as that of your sexual partners.

Simon Ruth

The landscape surrounding HIV and AIDS has changed dramatically since the first cases were identified in 1981. With the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies in the mid 1990s, treating HIV has radically improved. HIV has become a chronic manageable illness, and the proportion of people living with HIV who develop AIDS-defining illnesses has reduced drastically. In fact, people living with HIV on treatment with a suppressed viral can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Furthermore, antiviral treatment has made it possible for people living with HIV to have an undetectable viral load (UVL) and unable to transmit the virus through sex - making it the most effective way to prevent HIV.

In the past decade, we’ve also seen the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - highly effective medication that is taken by HIV-negative individuals to prevent them from acquiring HIV.

“We are in remarkable time of biomedical prevention. There are more ways to prevent HIV than ever before, but testing for HIV is paramount,” said Simon Ruth.

“Knowing your HIV status as we transition into life after lockdown gives us the best shot as seeing a future with no new transmissions of HIV.”

World AIDS Day 2021 will also mark the opening of Thorne Harbour’s new Centre Clinic at the Victorian Pride Centre. Established in the 1980s, the Centre Clinic was originally setup to provide free health services to gay men during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, the Centre Clinic operates as a general practice for LGBTI community members and provides specialist medical care for people living with HIV.

The Centre Clinic came into being as a result of the tireless efforts of community advocates that wanted to see a brighter future for people living with HIV and our LGBTIQ communities. From the clinic’s humble beginnings at the Melbourne STD Clinic in the 1980s, we’re incredibly proud to open the doors of our new premises at the Victorian Pride Centre.

Simon Ruth

Victoria’s HIV quarterly surveillance report is available online at: https://www.health.vic.gov.au/infectious-diseases/hiv-quarterly-surveillance-report

06 Oct 2021

‘Safe Always’ Campaign Highlights Family Violence in LGBTIQ Communities

While family violence continues to be a serious issue faced by society, Thorne Harbour Health and Rainbow Health Victoria have partnered on a bold campaign putting a spotlight on family violence in LGBTIQ communities.

The Safe Always campaign features four images of LGBTIQ couples juxtaposed with various headline texts about family violence - informed by the lived experience of LGBTIQ people.

The aim is to grab the attention of viewers and achieve a wider recognition of LGBTIQ family violence amongst mainstream service providers and community as well as raise awareness within LGBTIQ communities of experiences of violence that may otherwise remain hidden.

“It’s a confronting campaign, but we can’t be afraid to have the difficult conversation,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“Unfortunately, LGBTIQ communities are unexceptional in this regard - family violence is real for them too. We need to acknowledge this is happening to LGBTIQ people and we need to address the issue head on.”

“LGBTIQ communities can face difficulties accessing mainstream services that do not understand or recognise their experiences of family and intimate partner violence,” said Rainbow Health Victoria Director Marina Carman.

“The discussion around family violence is often focused on men’s violence against women, but the Safe Always campaign challenges everyone to consider the diversity of experiences of family violence and the need to strive for respect, safety and support for all people, families and relationships.”

The campaign website, safealways.org, provides further insight into LGBTIQ family violence as well as offers guidance around engaging with support services, in particular those with capacity to appropriately support LGBTIQ people.

01 Oct 2021

National Conference To Explore Health, Wellbeing And Safety Of LGBTIQ Women

The health, wellbeing and safety of LGBTIQ women in Australia will be in sharp focus at a national virtual conference to be held in November.

Experts, researchers, advocates, health professionals, service providers, and sexuality and gender diverse community members and allies from around the country will converge online for the LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference on Thursday 4 November to address health issues such as sexual and gender identity, sexual health, mental health, violence and safety, tobacco and drug use, alcohol consumption, cancer screening behaviours and more.

The fifth LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference is presented by two of Australia’s leading sexuality and gender diverse health organisations: ACON in NSW and Thorne Harbour Health in Victoria and South Australia. The event is the only conference held in Australia dedicated to exploring the health and wellbeing of women in LGBTIQ communities.

Karen Price, Deputy CEO of ACON, said the conference offers an opportunity for those involved in improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ women to participate in discussions, share insights, increase knowledge and learn more about contemporary responses to addressing key issues and challenges.

“Prior to the impact of COVID-19, ACON and our partner Thorne Harbour Health had been building important momentum with a regular, focussed opportunity for people to come together and put the spotlight on significant issues that impact LGBTIQ women’s lives. These conferences were rich and inspiring, covering diverse content, health issues, bodies and lived experiences,” Price said.

“We’re excited to be back in 2021 for our first virtual LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference, once again bringing health, social and other pressing issues impacting LGBTIQ women into focus.” 

The program will reflect the conference’s theme – ‘Our Health Matters’ – with the keynote presentation delivered by the research team behind UnLEASH, Australia’s first longitudinal cohort study exploring lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s health and wellbeing and the relationship with smoking, drinking and using drugs. At the conference, researchers will unveil findings from the first of the cohort surveys.

The conference will be presented in an online format, allowing for greater accessibility for delegates as well as higher capacity for presenters and speakers to participate in the program. Previous face-to-face conferences have attracted around 400 diverse attendees. This year’s virtual presentation will see the conference engage an even bigger audience and further broaden its reach.

Carolyn Gillespie, Thorne Harbour Health Director of Services, said: “Our LGBTIQ women’s communities are rich and diverse. This national conference provides an important place for us to celebrate our communities, showcase contemporary research and best practice, and ensure the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ women are centred in our collective health responses. The fact that the conference is going online this year makes it even easier to participate.”

The LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference celebrates meaningful inclusion, diversity and access, aiming to create a safe space to strengthen the health and wellbeing of all LGBTIQ women, including Aboriginal women, Sistergirls, women of colour, intersex women, trans and gender diverse women and women with disabilities.

ACON’s Price added: “Over the course of 2021, there have been plenty of discussions of systemic failures to advance women’s safety and equity. Diversity in these stories haven’t always been prominent, so it has never been more important for us to come together. We know we need focussed opportunities that elevate lived experience, expertise, research and ideas to make progress with and for our communities.”

The 2021 LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference will be held virtually on Thursday 4 November.

Registrations are now open until 3 November.

ACON and Thorne Harbour Health aim to make the conference as accessible as possible to everyone in our communities.

To register or for more for more information, visit the LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference website at lbq.org.au.

The 2021 LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference is supported by the NSW Ministries for Health, Mental Health and Regional Youth and Women, Multicultural NSW, and Lesbians Inc.

Follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation using #LGBTIQWHC.

####

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACTS

ACON

David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications

E: dalexander@acon.org.au M: 0428 477 042

Thorne Harbour Health

Caleb Hawk, Thorne Harbour Health Communications Manager

E: Caleb.Hawk@thorneharbour.org T: 03) 9865 6743

29 Jul 2021

Drama Downunder Sexual Health Campaign Sparks Community Complaints

Thorne Harbour Health’s longest-running sexual health campaign, The Drama Downunder, continues to spark complaints to Australia’s Ad Standards with the latest seasonal testing campaign.

First launched in 2008, the Drama Downunder has been highlighting the importance of maintaining sexual health and wellbeing for over a decade. During that time, the campaign has regularly received complaints - reaching a peak in 2019 when it cracked into the top ten most complained about ads in the first half of the year. The campaign has historically shown its models in a pair of white briefs in various light-hearted situations to destigmatise the discussion around sexual health.

“We’re incredibly proud of the Drama Downunder campaign. It was the first sexual health campaign specifically designed for gay men to be implemented in the mainstream in this country. For years, the award-winning campaign has been successfully reminding people to look after their sexual health all over Australia,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“While Drama Downunder featured one model for several years as the brand was being established, we decided to diversify the representation in the campaign in the last couple of years, and that has brought on a new wave of complaints,” he added.

“Having two men in the campaign has clearly sparked some homophobic backlash.”

The most recent complaint lodged said the campaign used, “sexually explicit images of two men, suggestive, compromising and grotesque, 24/7 in full public view , without any consideration of who sees these images and how they might impact children, religious persons, conservative people, foreigners and many more.”

And went on to add, “We do not openly promote prostitution, alcohol use & smoking and not normal sexual behaviour, but gay love is displayed like a car advert? It is utterly revolting!”

“It’s blatant homophobia and stigmatising views like these that remind us how important it is to have health promotion campaigns like the Drama Downunder clearly depicting gay men and taking the shame out of having a discussion around sexual health,” said Simon Ruth.

The latest Drama Downunder campaign features eight community models and revisits the idea of ‘seasonal testing’ or testing every three months. While Drama Downunder has run across Australia over the years, the campaign is currently featured on street posters in metropolitan Melbourne. Ad Standards have advised that the campaign does not breach the Code of advertising standards.

For more information, head to: www.thedramadownunder.info

03 May 2021

LGBTIQ Community Health Organisations Congratulate Victorian Peaks

Thorne Harbour Health and Switchboard Victoria applaud the Victorian peak organisations that have pledged to end the discrimination and inequities experienced by LGBTIQ+ communities in Victoria with the Embracing Equality Charter.

Launched earlier today, signatories on the Embracing Equality Charter include: Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance, Mental Health Victoria, Youth Affairs Council Victoria, Victorian Healthcare Association, Council to Homeless Persons, Victorian Alcohol & Drug Association, and Victorian Trades Hall Council.

“As a LGBTIQ community-controlled organisation, we are committed toward working toward a healthy future for our sex, sexuality, and gender diverse communities. We thank these organisations for taking up our cause. If we’re going see an improvement in the health and wellbeing of our communities, it’s going to require commitments from peak organisations like we’ve seen today,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

He added, “We can’t achieve our vision without the broader health service system getting on board.”

“The Embracing Equality Charter is a very heartening development. This work must be led by us as both LGBTIQ+ people and as LGBTIQ+ organisations, but we know that we cannot do it alone,” said Switchboard CEO Joe Ball.

“Switchboard also welcomes the Charter’s ongoing reference to the role and centrality of community-controlled organisations. LGBTIQ+ community-controlled organisations ensure that our health is in our hands and that nothing is done about us without us.”

“Our collective work in addressing the discrimination and inequities experienced by LGBTIQ+ people is not over. We’ve seen some great steps forward, but both research and experience show us that there is still so much work to be done. We hope this is just the beginning and the Embracing Equality Charter provides some much needed momentum to improving the health and wellbeing of our LGBTIQ+ communities."

The Embracing Equality Charter can be found online at: https://www.cfecfw.asn.au/victorias-social-peaks-pledge-to-support-lgbtiq-communities-with-embracing-equality-charter.

13 Apr 2021

Drama Downunder Encourages Seasonal Testing

Thorne Harbour Health’s long-running Drama Downunder health campaign has hit the streets with a focus on quarterly sexual health testing and featuring a diverse range of models from the local community.

First launched in 2008, the Drama Downunder has been reminding gay men and other men who have sex with men to look after their sexual health and wellbeing for over a decade. While the campaign has continued to reinvent itself from year-to-year, last year saw a signficant change when the campaign introduced seven new faces from the community.

“The Drama Downunder has been our flagship health promotion campaign for thirteen years and the inclusion a diverse range of faces and body types has been incredibly well received,” said Thorne Harbour Health Acting CEO Carolyn Gillespie.

“Now with an amazing line up of models from our communities, we’re revisiting one of our more popular campaigns to remind folks that with every new season it’s time to get a sexual health test.”

Focused on encouraging quarterly sexual health screening, the original ‘seasons’ iteration of the campaign was released in Victoria in 2015. The campaign went on to run in South Australia before being adapted for the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council and feature Aboriginal rugby league footballer Casey Conway. The latest Drama Downunder campaign revisits the four seasons with a different pair of models featured in summer, autumn, winter, and spring.

Carolyn Gillespie added, “As COVID restrictions around gatherings have eased, our communities are adapting to a new normal. We want to ensure this includes continuing to look after their sexual health and wellbeing.”

The latest campaign is running now through June 2021.

For more, head to: www.thedramadownunder.info

2020

10 Dec 2020

Australia’s First National Sexual, Domestic and Family Violence Digital Resource for LGBTQ+ Communities Goes Live

LGBTQ+ people impacted by sexual, domestic and family violence (SDFV) from across Australia will now have access to relevant, culturally appropriate and state-specific information and resources with the national rollout of the digital support hub, Say It Out Loud.

Produced by ACON, Australia’s largest sexuality and gender diverse health organisation, Say It Out Loud is an online platform on sexual, domestic and family violence designed specifically for LGBTQ+ people. First launched as a NSW specific site in 2017, the resource received funding from the Department of Social Services in 2019 to be expanded nationwide.

The new national website, being launched today to coincide with the final day of the annual campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, provides comprehensive and inclusive information for LGBTQ+ communities around the country affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault. It focuses on building healthy relationships and features tips, assessment tools, safety planning measures, videos, personal stories and other support resources.

The national platform has been developed in partnership with a range of specialist sexual assault and domestic violence services in every state and territory, enabling Say It Out Loud to feature state-specific content, information on state legislation, referral and support options, and local events. The organisations are:

  • New South Wales: ACON
  • Western Australia: The Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WCDFVS)
  • Tasmania: Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS)
  • Northern Territory: YWCA Australia (YWCA)
  • Queensland: DVConnect
  • South Australia: Women’s Safety Services SA (WSSSA)
  • Australian Capital Territory: The Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS)
  • Victoria: Kara House and Thorne Harbour Health

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said that the national expansion of Say It Out Loud responds to the need for tailored information and resources on SDFV for LGBTQ+ people across the country.

“Up until now, there has been no national website that specifically spoke to LGBTQ+ Australians about their relationships. Our data showed that more than half of Australian visitors to the NSW website were from outside the state, highlighting the need for locally specific information, content and referral links for community members across Australia.

“We thank the many sexual assault and domestic violence support organisations from around the country for their partnership and collaboration. Their expertise, knowledge and networks in their respective states and territories will provide LGBTQ+ community members with the relevant information and support they need.”

Parkhill added the partnerships will also help build capacity nationwide to support LGBTQ+ people impacted by sexual, domestic and family violence.

“While sexual, domestic and family violence is an issue that is gaining prominence, there is still little to no dedicated funding for LGBTQ+ communities to address SDFV in many states and territories.

“The partnerships will enable selected organisations to develop the skills, structures and strengths to become better equipped to identify unsafe relationships outside of the predominant heterosexual discourse, create safer pathways for clients, and provide further support for LGBTQ+ communities in culturally appropriate and safer ways.”

Parkhill also acknowledged the support of Australian Government in the expansion of Say It Out Loud.

“We thank the Department of Social Services for funding the national rollout of this vital resource. With the new Say It Out Loud website, we will not only shine a light of SDFV issues in our community on a national scale, we will also be able to further support the strength and resilience of LGBTQ+ people across the country, and thereby improve our collective health and wellbeing.”

Visit Say It Out Loud here.

ENDS

ADDITIONAL QUOTES

Thorne Harbour Health Director of Services, Carolyn Gillespie:

“This national website will bring significant benefits to our LGBTIQ communities. As a one-stop shop for support and information related to healthy relationships, as well as family violence and sexual assault, the site simplifies the often complex process of connecting to safe support and getting help for LGBTIQ community members. The information available on the site is written for and by community and celebrates the diversity and strength of healthy and supportive LGBTIQ relationships – and, importantly, how to get help when a relationship is not safe.”

The Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing Acting CEO, Kedy Kristal: “The Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing is proud to partner with ACON and other state DFV services to promote the Say it Out Loud website. It’s a fabulous resource that supports and strengthens LGBTQ relationships across Australia.”

Sexual Assault Support Service CEO, Jill Maxwell: “As a small regional state Tasmania will greatly benefit from having this central website. The Say It Out Loud website is a great way of providing information and support, but also normalising healthy relationships, and destigmatising sexuality and relationships within marginalised groups. Tasmania knows what it feels like to be the odd one out, and we would never want anyone to feel excluded from any conversation about sexual safety. One of our aims is to ensure that everyone knows that we all have the right to feel safe, all of the time.”

YWCA Australia National Service Development and Delivery Director, Shannon Wright: “The Say It Out Loud project is incredibly important and will impact LGBTQ communities across the Northern Territory experiencing SDFV and those wanting further information on healthy relationships. As an evolving intersectional feminist organisation YWCA Australia is extremely proud and honoured to work in partnership with so many passionate organisations, where we all bring our expertise together to amplify the impact for LGBTQ communities. Our work in communities directly benefits from these relationships and shared vision we are very excited for our journey together”

DVConnect CEO, Beck O’Connor: “DVConnect is incredibly proud to partner with ACON and other specialist domestic, family and intimate partner violence services nationally because there is significant apprehension within LGBTIQ+ communities to ever contact mainstream services for support and we need to change that.”

Women’s Safety Services SA CEO, Maria Hagias: “Women’s Safety Services SA is thrilled to be part of a National partnership to improve responses and services to the LGBTIQ+ communities.  As the largest specialized Domestic and Family Violence service in South Australia, we recognize the importance of celebrating all LGBTIQ+ relationships and our continuing learning to support the community when concerns of risk and safety arise.”

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service interim General Manager, Glenda Stevens: “The Say It Out Loud website pulls a lot of information together, making it easier for people to access information relevant to their needs. The website promotes positive relationships as well as providing vital information to people who might be subjected to violence within their relationships, use violence or are worried about a friend or loved one.”

Kara House, Specialist Family Violence Practitioner Katie McNally: “Kara House is excited to be a part of a national partnership delivering information and referral pathways which will improve the experience of LGBTIQ community members accessing services. The Say It Out Loud project is providing a national integrated information point for resources for both LGBTIQ community and the services supporting them and is accessible to community no matter their location. Being a partner in the project has also enabled Kara House to access training and support to improve inclusive practice and provided the opportunity to network with state and national services to share knowledge and resources”.

FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES

ACON | David Alexander, Media and Communications | dalexander@acon.org.au

WCDFVS | Kedy Kristal, CEO | Kedykristal@womenscouncil.com.au

SASS | Laura Davis, Primary Prevention Educator | Laura.Davis@sass.org.au

YWCA | Shannon Wright, Director, National Service Development and Delivery | shannon.wright@ywca.org.au

DVConnect | Beck O’Connor, CEO | ceo@dvconnect.org

WSSSA | Mergho Ray, Manager Integrated Programs | merghor@womenssafetyservices.com.au

DVCS | Alanna Davis, Community Development and Engagement Manager | alanna@dvcs.org.au

Kara House | Katie McNally, Specialist Family Violence Practitioner | admin@karahouse.org.au

Thorne Harbour Health | Caleb Hawk, Communications Manager |  communications@thorneharbour.org

We encourage the use of the Australian Press Council’s Advisory Guideline for Reporting on persons with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

25 Nov 2020

Supporting Victoria’s Bill to Ban Conversion Practices

Thorne Harbour Health has announced its support of the Victorian Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill introduced today as it seeks to protect adults and children from harmful practices that attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Victorian Government undertook an extensive process in the development of the bill including an inquiry, significant research and meaningful consultation with survivor-advocates. The resulting bill is of an incredibly high standard, surpassing any similar legislation developed in Australia to date.

“By passing this legislation, Victoria has a chance to lead the way globally in protecting the human rights of our sexually and gender diverse communities from incredibly harmful practices based on false and misleading claims,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

The bill seeks to establish a range of civil and criminal penalties and ban practices in formal settings (for example medical, psychology or counselling services) as well as informal settings such as religious settings. It would also prohibit advertising or promotion of paid or unpaid conversion practices as well referrals to conversation practices. If passed, the bill would also provide investigative powers to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

“Difference is not a defect. LGBTQA+ people are not ‘broken’ or ‘disordered’. It is vital that we stop so-called practitioners, whether in informal or formal settings, from performing practices that traumatise participants,” added Simon Ruth.

“This bill is informed by the lived experience of survivors of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts, and seeks to end these practices which are harmful and grounded in unscientific claims,” says Rebecca Baxter, a steering committee member of Brave Network, a support and advocacy group for survivors of conversion practices.

The suite of changes is accompanied by a range of support initiatives for survivors, with investigations initiated into potential conversion practices to employ strategies that prevent re-traumatisation.

Thorne Harbour Health is encouraging everyone to show their support for the Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill by contacting their local MP. The organisation is also inviting community members to attend their upcoming Community Briefing on Monday 30 November from 6PM.

13 Nov 2020

Over 2000 lifesaving health services for TGD Victorians

JOINT RELEASE with Your Community Health, Austin Health, Ballarat Community Health

Over 2000 appointments have been provided to trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorians from a new model of inclusive, gender-affirming health service. November 22nd 2020 marks one year since the launch of the Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Health Service and its two multi-disciplinary clinics based in Preston and Ballarat.

The program is improving health access and outcomes for trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorian adults, through the delivery of state-wide, bulk billed services. The service has been able to support some of the most isolated Victorians living in regional and remote areas of Victoria by utilising a mixture telehealth and outreach clinics. Clients have also benefited from reduced wait times compared to common experiences at other clinics.

Led by Your Community Health, in partnership with Austin Health, Ballarat Community Health and Thorne Harbour Health, and funded by the Victorian Government, services include peer navigation, general practice, hormone therapy initiation, counselling, endocrinology, nursing, peer support and warm referral into broader community health services such as allied health and dental.

“Our state-wide service has seen extraordinary growth during a very challenging year with COVID-19 and we are proud of our achievements. We have supported community members with their essential health needs and also increased employment for community members in professional roles,” said Your Community Health Chief Executive Officer, Phillip Bain.

The new Victorian service has paved the way for Australia with a new model of care, integrating Peer Navigators into a medical environment.

“Our Peer Navigators are the concierge of our health service, they greet and welcome our valued clients, provide them with information, referral and support and continue to be available for follow up appointments,” said Jeremy Wiggins, Project Manager.

“This level of support is unprecedented and absolutely necessary for our communities who often experience multiple barriers in accessing quality healthcare. I often get phone calls from our clients who tell me personally that our service has literally saved their life. There is no doubt in my mind that this Victorian service is providing lifesaving health care,” Wiggins continued. The success of this model comes as a result of the hard work and determination of our trans and gender diverse community advocates and a collaborative commitment by implementing organisations to design and deliver services with the community.

The community health sector is well experienced in supporting those most at risk of health inequalities and it is hoped the success of the Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Health Service in such a short time will lead to the securing of ongoing support for the expansion of services.

To access this service: Victorians can register online at: https://www.yourcommunityhealth.org.au/trans-and-gender-diverse-health/

12 Nov 2020

An Exciting Move Around the Corner for Bendigo’s LGBTI Communities

The new year will see a new location for Thorne Harbour Country’s Community Hub. Thorne Harbour Health is investing in Bendigo for 2021 — purchasing a new site just around the corner from its previous premises.

Following in the footsteps of the Country Awareness Network (CAN), Thorne Harbour established a Bendigo-based service focused on preventing blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections as well as supporting both people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI communities in the Loddon Mallee Region in February 2016.

“After over 20 years of serving the community in Bendigo, the Country Awareness Network left some big shoes for us to fill, and I believe we’ve risen to the challenge,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Thorne Harbour Country, we’re excited to mark that milestone with a new site that will allow us to expand our reach and better serve the growing needs of our LGBTI communities and people living with HIV in the Loddon Mallee Region.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth

The new two-storey site will allow Thorne Harbour Country to re-establish the Community Hub for peer workshops, events, and service delivery. The new location on Mundy Street is just around the corner from the program’s original site and the former home of CAN.

“The Bendigo community is passionate about supporting LGBTI individuals and people living with HIV. We’ve been proud to work with the community over the years, and we’re excited to create a new space where they can be better supported and empowered to look after their ongoing health and wellbeing,” said Thorne Harbour Country Coordinator Claudia Validum.

“We hope the new site can serve as community centre for regional Victoria. After all, we know from the recent Victorian Population Health Survey that our LGBTI communities are located throughout the state,” added Simon Ruth.

The Thorne Harbour Country Community Hub is expected to open in early 2021 in time for the fifth anniversary of the program.

16 Sep 2020

Victorian Health Survey Demonstrates Significant Health Inequalities for LGBTIQ Populations

The Victorian Agency for Health Information has released survey findings outlining the issues that contribute to health inequalities faced by LGBTIQ Victorians. Thorne Harbour Health congratulates the Victorian Government on the release of these findings as a first in the state’s history, but the community-controlled health organisation hopes the stark findings lead to systemic change and greater support for LGBTIQ Victorians.

“Our LGBTIQ communities are experiencing housing and financial insecurity, mental health distress, chronic disease, and family violence at significantly higher rates when compared to non-LGBTIQ Victorians,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“These challenges need to be met with policy changes and service developments that are inclusive and affirming of LGBTIQ Victorians.”

The expansion of the sample size from over 7,000 to over 34,000 during this survey has allowed the survey to capture statistically significant findings about the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ Victorians including:

  • A significantly higher proportion of LGBTIQ adults had a total household income of less than $40,000 and were not able to raise $2,000 within two days in an emergency when compared to non-LGBTIQ Victorians.
  • 24.4% of LGBTIQ adults had high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to 14.5% of non-LGBTIQ adults.
  • 44.8% of LGBTIQ adults surveyed had been diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression compared to 26.7% of non-LGBTIQ adults.
  • 13.4% of LGBTIQ adults had experienced family violence compared to 5.4% of non-LGBTIQ adults.

“The findings from this survey gives the Victorian Government valuable insight into the health status of our LGBTIQ communities, and it paints a clear picture – LGBTIQ Victorians are continuing to experience health inequality and we need to take action,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“We strongly encourage the Victorian Government to consider these findings when implementing the reforms from the recent Family Violence Royal Commission and upcoming Mental Health Royal Commission.”

The survey findings also included demographic and socioeconomic status details about the 5.7% of Victorian adults who identified as LGBTIQ. While a higher proportion of adults living in metropolitan Melbourne identified as LGBTIQ (6%), the survey showed that LGBTIQ adults are living throughout regional and rural Victoria as well.

“We’re not just based in Melbourne and this needs to be reflected in how we provide services and support to LGBTIQ Victorians living in regional and rural settings,” said Simon Ruth.

When it came to social capital, a significantly higher proportion of LGBTIQ adults were members of other community groups, were in contact with 1-4 people on the previous day, and felt multiculturalism made life better in their area.

“We envision a healthy future for our sex, sexuality and gender diverse communities, where all Victorians can live with dignity and participate fully in society. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government as we move toward that future,” Simon Ruth added.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here: https://www.bettersafercare.vic.gov.au/reports-and-publications/vphs2017-lgbtiq

07 Sep 2020

PrEP Community Congratulates Prepped Smart & Healthy on Million Dollar Milestone

Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) congratulates Prepped Smart and Healthy on contributing over $1 million towards eliminating HIV in Australia by creating greater access to cost effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP, a daily pill, prevents the acquisition of HIV. In just over two years, Prepped Smart and Healthy has supported thousands of individuals to access PrEP by subsidising the cost.

“Prepped Smart & Healthy is doing remarkable work in supporting people to overcome financial barriers and take control of their health and wellbeing through the use of PrEP,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“It is through the collective action of organisations like Prepped Smart and Healthy that we’re going to see the virtual elimination of HIV across Australia.”

The program aims to reduce the cost of medication down a third of the usual cost. For example, general patients with a Medicare card can expect to pay $41 for a three-month supply as opposed to $123. For Concession card holders the cost would be reduced from $19.80 to just $6.60. Last year, Thorne Harbour Health awarded Prepped Smart & Healthy’s founder, Joseph Tesoriero, the 2019 President’s Award after the newly-established charity distributed more than $500,000 in subsidies after its first year. To date, it’s estimated that as many as 5,000 people have accessed PrEP through this program on multiple occassions.

Joseph Tesoriero is also the Proprietor of the HealthSmart Group of Pharmacies that Prepped Smart & Healthy has stemmed from.

“The purpose of Prepped Smart and Healthy is to make medications more affordable for those
marginalised communities where the high cost may prevent access. By removing the barrier of financial burden, adherence is made easier and the risk of medication failure is lowered, enabling better health outcomes,” said Tesoriero.

The milestone in HIV prevention has been applauded by advocacy groups and community organisations that have worked to gain access to this biomedical tool for HIV prevention.

PrEP access advocacy group PAN (PrEP Access Now) expressed their gratitude by saying, “On behalf of the PAN committee, we extend our most sincere thanks to Joseph and the Prepped Smart and Healthy team for this astounding achievement. The Australian PrEP community fought long and hard for affordable access to HIV preventative medication to better take charge of their sexual health. To have such profound support has undoubtedly benefited so many. This news is especially poignant as we navigate a global crisis where we have never been so cognisant of our health and wellbeing”

Founders of the online community group PrEP’D For Change added, “PrEP’D For Change commends Prepped Smart & Healthy for their dedication to supporting communities at risk of HIV and improving affordable access to this gamechanging medication beyond the subsidy made possible by the Australian Government. The significant uptake of this charitable offer is testament to PrEP user’s ongoing commitment to protecting themselves and their communities.”

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