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 criminalised for possession and use of amyl in the meantime.”
The TGA decision is publicly 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.
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:
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.”
04 Feb 2019
Thorne Harbour applauds Victorian Government announcement to ban conversion ‘therapies’
Following the an extensive investigation into conversion practices by the Health Complaints Commissioner and the release of a landmark report into conversion practices by the Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University, the Andrews Government announced that it will ban converserion practices in Victoria at yesterday’s Pride March in Melbourne. Thorne Harbour Health applauds the Government’s move to prohibit these intensely harmful practices targeting LGBTI people, and hopes this ban is inclusive of all communities affected.
This ban would be the first of its kind in Australia. This announcement follows the Health Complaints Commissioner’s recommendation for legislation to be introduced that prohibits conversion practices and seek to address the harmful and damaging toll these have taken on the health and wellbeing of LGBTI indviduals.
The Government has announced that the development of legislation will begin immediately and will include consultation with communities impacted by these practices in the past as well as both LGBTI and faith-based organisations.
“This announcement couldn’t come soon enough. By tackling conversion practices, the Victorian Government is leading the way in addressing a longstanding issue standing between our LGBTI communities and better health and wellbeing,” said Thorne Harbour President Chad Hughes.
“Conversion practices have gone on for far too long and have hidden in the shadows, taking advantage of vulnerable people within our LGBTI communities that were led to believe they needed ‘fixing’. It’s an abhorrent practice that has no place in society.”
Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth added, “We eagerly await further details on this legislation. The Government has committed to addressing any ‘practice or treatment that seeks to change, suppress or eliminate an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.’ We hope this legislation also comprehensively considers all funded or state-supported practices that involuntarily impose a gender, sex, or sexuality on individuals in our community.”
24 Jan 2019
Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey 2019
Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) along with the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) and the Kirby Institute at UNSW is conducting the Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey (MGCPS). This annual survey takes a snapshot of the sexual practices among men who have sex with other men in relation to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
From Sunday 20 January at the 2019 Midsumma Carnival Day through Sunday 27 January, gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (MSM) are being asked to participate in the survey at a range of locations across Melbourne, including medical clinics, social venues such as pubs and bars, and sex-on-premises venues. Only Melbourne men who have had sex with another man in the past five years should complete a survey form, as well as men who don’t live in Melbourne but who regularly participate in the Melbourne gay community. The survey is completely anonymous, and the results are communicated later in the year via LGBTI media, through public meetings and seminars, in online reports, and through journal articles.
First conducted in Melbourne in 1998, the short survey takes a snapshot of gay men’s sexual practices related to the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. The survey is important because it gives a snapshot of the lives of gay and homosexually active men in Melbourne from year to year. It allows comparisons to be made over time and for a picture to emerge of the changes in sexual practices and partnering habits, drug use, HIV and STI rates, and testing habits.
The Periodic Survey is also conducted in other states during gay community festivals so that comparisons can be drawn between states. Data from the surveys are used to form local and national sexual health promotion campaigns and education strategies.
“All same-sex attracted guys are welcome to complete this annual survey — gay, bi, trans and non-binary both HIV negative and HIV Positive,” said the survey’s Victorian coordinator, Tex McKenzie.
“New questions added this year ask about whether individuals or their partners use PrEP or have an undetectable viral load. And not all questions need to be answered by everyone; there are specific questions for men who are living with HIV as well as general questions that everyone can answer.”
Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth added: “The Periodic Survey is an important piece of research that helps us target not only campaigns around HIV and STI-prevention, but around mental health issues and alcohol and drug use in our community as well.”
“The data we gather from the survey over time is an invaluable resource for both state-based and national campaigns.”
The survey will be conducted over the weekend ahead at number of venues, including Subway Sauna, The Laird, Wet on Wellington, The Peel, and Club 80.
26 Nov 2018
Thorne Harbour Health highlights plans ‘For the Future’ at 2018 Annual General Meeting
Thorne Harbour Health (formally comprised of the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre) held their annual general meeting yesterday to announce their newest Life Members, their 2018 award recipients, and their newly elected board members. The evening also included the release of the 2017/2018 Annual Report For the Future and the announcement of the organisation’s newest location at 200 Hoddle Street in Abbotsford.
The Annual General Meeting also includes the Keith Harbour Address, this year delivered by the organisation’s founding President, Phil Carswell.
Recipients for this year’s Life Membership included longstanding advocate for people living with HIV, Paul Kidd, and Maureen O’Brien, the organisation’s founding clinic nurse who worked tirelessly with the community through the height of the epidemic.
The 2018 Thorne Harbour Health Awards were presented, including:
- President’s Award to David Owen for his longstanding volunteer services as a solicitor and a member of the organisation’s Investments Committee
- Greig Friday Young Leader Award to LGBTI community advocate Lee Carnie from the Human Rights Law Centre
- Media Award to LGBTI regional radio presenter Max Primer
As well as Special Services Awards to:
- Professor Jenny Hoy - longstanding HIV clinician and researcher
- Virginia Cummins - health promotion campaign photographer
- Herbert Smith Freehills Lawyers
- Nic Holas - PLHIV advocate and founder of The Institute of Many (TIM)
“Our work is supported by an incredible network of individuals and organisations every year,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.
“Our annual awards are just a small token of our appreciation and a way we can acknowledge the meaningful impact of their contribution.”
The evening also saw the release of the 2017/2018 Annual Report For the Future - complementing last year’s award-winning If report. The publication features a collection of portraits from Melbourne’s LGBTI communities and captures their hopes ‘for the future’. This year’s report also includes the announcement of the organisation’s newest location at 200 Hoddle Street.
“We’re a growing organisation with sites across Victoria and South Australia now,” said Thorne Harbour President Chad Hughes.
“And we’re looking forward to having services and staff in the Victorian Pride Centre. The recent purchase of 200 Hoddle Street means that we’ll have another location to serve our LGBTI communities ‘for the future.’”
At the Annual General Meeting, the outcome of the election was announced, seeing Paul Kidd as well as Assoc. Prof. Adam Bourne joining the joint VAC/GMHC board.
23 Oct 2018
HIV and AIDS Priorities: working with the next Victorian Government to respond to HIV
Thorne Harbour Health, Living Positive Victoria, and Positive Women Victoria have released HIV and AIDS Priorities – a document that recommends 27 actions to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV and to build upon Victoria’s HIV targets, prevention, testing, and treatment efforts.
HIV and AIDS Priorities also covers areas of stigma and discrimination, tobacco use amongst people living with HIV, and HIV-related law reform.
Victoria’s record of action to reduce HIV transmissions and to support people with HIV should be enhanced through growing what works well and adding several new initiatives.
Victoria’s three key community-controlled organisations working on HIV, Thorne Harbour Health, Living Positive Victoria, and Positive Women Victoria, have developed HIV and AIDS Priorities to help guide the next Victorian Government’s policy responses and continue to advance Victoria’s enviable record of support and action.
Advances in treatment have made it possible to effectively suppress HIV replication and for people living with HIV to live normal lifespans. A sustained undetectable viral load eliminates the risk of HIV transmission, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also being used as an effective prevention measure.
In order to fully capitalise on these advances, better prevent HIV, and improve the lives of people living with HIV, accessible and timely testing and diagnosis is required for all Victorians who may be at risk of HIV alongside access to treatment, care, and support.
Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “Victoria’s sexual health service infrastructure has failed to keep up with the state’s population growth and is impeding our efforts to effectively tackle HIV and high rates of other STIs.”
“We need to look for ways to expand our prevention and treatment service systems through GPs and Hospitals across Victoria. PEP should be available at every hospital and cost barriers to treatment should be removed.”
Living Positive Victoria CEO Richard Keane said, “Victoria also requires action to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Anti-stigma campaigns should be funded, and family and peer support programs should be developed and extended. Unnecessary HIV disclosure should be discouraged through new guidelines.”
Positive Women Victoria Executive Officer Kirsty Machon said, “Victorian women require a specific focus, to ensure that health promotion messages and prevention programs are having an impact, that testing rates for women are increased through targeted and appropriate outreach and the education of health care providers, and that all women are diagnosed in a timely manner, accessing the treatment they need, and with referral to support and services.”
18 Sep 2018
LGBTI+ Community Organisations Unite To Highlight Priorities in Lead Up to Victoria’s State Election
Recognising that LGBTI+ Victorians continue to experience discrimination, poorer health outcomes, higher rates of homelessness, and the enjoyment of fewer rights, 30 LGBTI+ community organisations and service providers have endorsed LGBTI+ Priorities — a booklet outlining actions for all political parties to consider in the lead up to Victorian state election on 24 November 2018.
LGBTI+ Priorities outlines 59 actions to make Victoria a fairer and equal place for LGBTI+ people to live, work and raise their families. Among other things, the document highlights issues around advancing equality, addressing discrimination, improving safety and security, and ways of supporting Victorians from the bisexual, intersex, and trans and gender diverse communities.
“Recently, we have seen some incredible progress for our LGBTI+ communities, but the job is not over,” said Dale Park, Co-Convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
“Our communities are impacted by family violence, homelessness, discrimination, social isolation, and stigma. As a result, the overall health and wellbeing of our communities is suffering.”
LGBTI+ Priorities provides an overview of these priority areas followed by a list of actions to take to address these issues at a state level. The booklet also includes opportunities to lobby the Federal Government to ensure dignity and equality for LGBTI+ people doesn’t stop at the Victorian border.
“It’s not enough to recognise these issues exist. We need to see constructive and community-informed actions that tackle these challenges head on,” said Simon Ruth, CEO of Thorne Harbour Health.
“We look forward to working constructively, as we always have, with the government of the day to protect and promote the health and human rights of people from LGBTI+ communities.”
“LGBTI+ communities are incredibly resilient and have shown a great deal of strength in the face of adversity,” said Brenda Appleton, Chair of Transgender Victoria.
“But with a united voice, we’re offering a way forward through practical policy reforms - such birth certificate reform which is needed urgently - to ensure Victoria is a place where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society with dignity and equality.”
Felicity Marlowe, Executive Director of Rainbow Families Victoria added, “Today LGBTI+ communities stand united in our call for a fairer and equal Victoria; a Victoria where we can live, work and raise our families without fear of prejudice and discrimination.”
Tony Briffa, Co-Executive Director of Intersex Human Rights Australia said, “We need to protect the human rights of all children. Medically unnecessary and harmful interventions are currently performed on intersex children as non-consenting minors. This is not medicine, it’s social engineering, and it needs to stop.”
Rebecca Dominguez, President of the Bisexual Alliance of Victoria said, “Bisexual people face unique challenges as a community, such as higher rates of anxiety, and policy responses need to be tailored to meet those challenges.”
Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, and Co-Chair of the Justice Working Group of the Victorian Government LGBTI Task Force said, “Victoria has been leading the way in improving the lives of LGBTI+ people, and this work needs to continue so our communities feel safe and valued for who they are. This resource sets a forward agenda to ensure our political leaders know the key issues of concern for LGBTI+ Victorians.”
20 Aug 2018
Thorne Harbour Health mourns the loss of HIV/AIDS community leader Professor Jim Hyde
Today, Thorne Harbour Health has lost a tireless leader, community activist, and gay community advocate with the passing of Professor Jim Hyde.
At the time of his death, Jim was an active and vigorous board member. His almost 30-year involvement with the organisation has been characterised by passion, intelligence, strategic insight, and a fierce commitment to the HIV and AIDS sector as well as the LGBTI community as a whole.
Jim was a life member of the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) and was, in fact, the General Manager of the organisation from 1990 to 1994. During that time, he guided the organisation in its development from our modest premises in Collingwood to our relocation to Claremont Street in South Yarra, where we remained for 23 years. He was also at the helm in 1993 when the first Positive Living Centre opened on Acland Street in St Kilda. Jim was a founding member of the AIDS Council of South Australia and the South Australian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
Jim held senior policy positions in both the New South Wales and Victorian Departments of Health, including serving as Victoria’s Director of Public Health where he brought his grassroots activism and community awareness to bear on matters of high level public policy.
He was awarded the inaugural Rainbow Award for Leadership in the Gay Community in 1993 and the PLWHA Victoria President’s award for Services to the Positive Community in 2008.
Jim was an Adjunct Chair at the University of Western Sydney, an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Monash Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, and a Professor of Public Health Policy at Deakin University.
Jim could be seen by some as provocative in his relentless pursuit of issues related to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI communities. He could be a fierce opponent and a formidable ally. Jim always said, “I try to contribute as best I can.” Through all his endeavours, he sought to make our community a safer, healthier, and more secure place.
“He was a great strategic thinker, a skilled negotiator and policy expert, as well as a generous elder of our community,” said Thorne Harbour Health President Chad Hughes.
“Whenever we came across complex issues related to the organisation, Jim was always ready with sage advice and critical insights that I personally, and the organisation as a whole, benefitted from. From the sale of our previous premises in South Yarra to our recent rebrand and countless other matters, his legacy is significant.”
Thorne Harbour Health CEO, Simon Ruth added, “Jim’s insights were always informed by a keen sense of where the organisation had been historically, what it needed in the present, and how we needed to develop for future sustainability. He brought to our organisation, and LGBTI people more generally, a deep community knowledge informed by passion and determination. He will be missed.”
Jim is survived by his daughters, Sophie and Alice, their families, and his partner Glenn.
07 Jul 2018
35th Anniversary marks transition to Thorne Harbour Health
7 JULY 2018 - In the lead up to their 35th anniversary, LGBTI health organisation and Australia’s oldest HIV/AIDS organisation, the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has announced they’re changing their name to Thorne Harbour Health. The new name recognises two visionary community leaders in the organisation’s history of advocating for the health and wellbeing of both people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI communities — Alison Thorne and Keith Harbour.
“It’s been a carefully considered decision, one that was informed by feedback from our members, volunteers, staff, and stakeholders. AIDS Councils are trusted insititutions in Australia, but our evolution as a community-controlled organisation has seen us outgrow our identity as ‘the Victorian AIDS Council’. We’re now working with a broader range of LGBTI communities — delivering programs and services interstate and nationally,” said VAC President Chad Hughes.
“Thankfully, we’re at a point in the epidemic where having an AIDS-defining illness is rare in this country, and the majority of people living with HIV are seeing the health benefits of highly effective treatment options.”
VAC CEO Simon Ruth added, “Thorne Harbour Health gives us a fantastic opportunity to tell our story to a whole new generation of people. Alison and Keith represent a much larger group of community leaders, activists, and advocates who worked, and in many cases continue to work, for the health and wellbeing of our PLHIV and LGBTI communities.”
“We’re incredibly proud of where we have come from, and we’ve made that legacy central to our new brand identity.”
In June 1983, during Melbourne’s first community meeting about the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic, one voice stood out amongst the hundreds of people at the Royal Dental Hospital that night — that of lesbian activist and queer liberationist, Alison Thorne. Alison motivated and mobilised the meeting by asking ‘what are we going to do about this and how can we do it? We need to form an organisation’. A few weeks late, a follow up meeting was held at the Laird Hotel resulting in the formation of what was to become the Victorian AIDS Council.
Keith Harbour was VAC’s President from 1987-89. As an inspiring leader, Keith mobilised the community from high-level political policy to grass-roots activism with the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT-UP). Keith continued to work tirelessly to get access to lifesaving medicines for PLHIV. In a special ceremony convened by the then Governor of Victoria, Keith was awarded the Order of Australia medal at his bedside at Fairfield Hospital before he died in 1991.
Thorne Harbour Health will make this announcement at the 35th anniversary of the organisation on Saturday 7 July at Experimedia in the State Library of Victoria.