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.
24 May 2018
LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference Announces 2018 Keynote Speakers
The Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), in partnership with ACON, is excited to announce the keynote speakers for the 2018 LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference. The conference, now in its fourth year, is the only national summit for LGBTIQ women’s health in Australia.
2018 keynote speakers will include:
Jerril Rechter – Jerril is the CEO of VicHealth. She is a World Health Organization Advisor, Chair of the International Network of Health Promotion Foundations, and Board Member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club.
Alison Thorne – Alison is a socialist feminist. She is the managing editor of the Freedom Socialist Organiser and a founding member of Radical Women in Australia. She is a lifelong LGBTIQ liberationist.
Naomi Fontanos –Naomi is a feminist and a long-time advocate of the Filipino transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, and queer (TLGBIQ) community. She is the Executive Director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas.
Sally Rugg – Sally is the Executive Director of Change.org and the former campaign director of GetUp! where she worked at the forefront of the marriage equality campaign.
Roj Amedi – Roj is the Senior Human Rights Campaigner at GetUp! as well as a writer and editor.
The conference will be opened by the Minister for Health, Jill Hennessey, and additional keynote speakers are still to be announced.
“We are thrilled by this year’s line-up. We’re confident this diverse and inspiring group of women will inspire a robust discussion about how we can better address LGBTIQ women’s health and empower those women in attendance,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.
“We’re tackling an ambitious portfolio of issues in just two days, including: sexual health, ageing, mental health, activism and feminism, breast and cervical cancers, trans health, living with disabilities, leadership, alcohol and other drugs, rainbow families, domestic and family violence, sex work, marriage equality and the refugee and migrant experience.”
This year’s theme ‘Research, Resilience, Respect’ is aimed at exploring existing research into LGBTIQ women’s health. Furthermore, this year’s conference will highlight the need for further research — to acknowledge the resilience and strength of LGBTIQ women as well as pay respect to all LGBTIQ women’s communities.
The conference, initiated by VAC in 2015, was born out of the realisation LGBTIQ women’s health is largely overlooked by both LGBTIQ and mainstream organisations.
In 2016, VAC partnered with ACON to co-present the conference, which expanded to a two-day event in 2017 with over 300 attendees from all over Australia.
LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference will be on 12-13 July 2018 at the Jasper Hotel 489 Elizabeth Street Melbourne. For more information and registration, visit: lbq.org.au.
20 May 2018
L.O.V.E. Expands to Recognise LGBTIQ Community Volunteers
Now in its second year, the LGBTI Organisations Volunteer Event (L.O.V.E.) is expanding to recognise the contribution of community volunteers to the work of Transgender Victoria (TGV) and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Achives. They will be joining the event’s founding organisations - the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), JOY and Switchboard Victoria, as they honour longserving volunteers and celebrate the vital role volunteers play on a daily basis.
Following last week’s National Volunteers Week, L.O.V.E. is returning to St Kilda Town Hall on
Thursday 31 May. Hosted by Dani Weber, the night will include performances by shOUT youth orchestra and Raina Peterson as well as a panel exhibition by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives from ‘Victoria’s Very Queer History’.
“After the success of last year’s LOVE event, JOY’s ongoing involvement was never in question,” said JOY CEO Tennille Moisel.
“Our community was built on the passion and contributions of people dedicating their time, and it seems only fitting that we should recognise this contribution at both the individual and broader community levels. JOY is proud of our volunteers and thankful that year after year we are able to continue to operate because of their ongoing support.”
TGV Treasurer Sally Goldner added, “Transgender Victoria is excited to be part of the expansion of L.O.V.E.! As a volunteer-run organisation, we are grateful every day for the immense difference our volunteers make in the lives of trans and gender diverse Victorians and their families. Through supporting our organisation, they’re helping TGV to continue to advocate and educate for positive change.”
While the night recognises the major milestones for 5, 10, 15, and 20 years of volunteer service, this year will also include a remarkable 25 year milestone for two VAC volunteers - Robert Mann and Dominic Whitehouse .
“As we near our 35th anniversary as a community-controlled organisation, recognising those volunteers that have been with us for incredible stretches of that history is truly an honour for us,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.
“We’ve learned throughout our history that LGBTI communities are only able to truly thrive when they’re supported by a foundation of committed and passionate volunteers willing to donate their time and talents.”
28 Apr 2018
New Campaign Aims to Shift LBQ Drinking Culture in Regional Victoria
Lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ) women in regional Victoria will be supported to re-think their relationship with alcohol thanks to a new project by Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) and health promotion foundation VicHealth.
The ReThink the Drink project will be launched at this year’s Bendigo Queer Film Festival, April 27-28 and is the first of its kind addressing alcohol culture change amongst LBQ women in Victoria.
ReThink the Drink seeks to inspire alcohol culture change amongst LBQ women living in regional Victoria. Studies have shown LBQ women engage in risky drinking behaviours at higher levels than their heterosexual counterparts.
The project includes a print and digital campaign that calls for women to share their story online.
The campaign, which uses the tagline ‘Couldn’t Have Done That with a Hangover!’, was developed with LBQ women, who asked for a motivational and positive approach.
“The approach has been driven by lesbian, bisexual, and queer women in regional Victoria who have helped design how this campaign looks and feels. We need to work together if we’re going to tackle alcohol culture change amongst these communities,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.
“We’re very excited to see this campaign roll out and start an important conversation with those regional communities about the impact alcohol is having on their lives.”
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said Rethink the Drink is an important step in increasing social support for low-risk drinking among some LBQ women.
“Our vision is to see people supporting one another to reduce risky drinking, resulting in reduced harm for the individual, their family, people in the vicinity, and the broader community,” Ms Rechter said.
“Rethink the Drink is about showing how risky drinking can hold us back from doing the things we love. Life really is better without the hangovers.”
ReThink the Drink will be rolled out in Ballarat, Geelong, Morwell, and Bendigo and is part of VicHealth’s Alcohol Change Initiative.
08 Mar 2018
HIV community mourns the loss of Tony Maynard
Today, the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has lost a longstanding and dedicated champion in the response to HIV and AIDS with the passing of Tony Maynard. Serving on the current VAC board, Tony’s longstanding commitment to addressing HIV in Australia goes back over 30 years — as does his involvement with VAC. Tony served at VAC’s first Treatments Officer during the height of the epidemic.
Tony was passionate about ensuring no one was left behind in the HIV response and that everyone could access the treatment, care and support they needed. Tony served at the Senior Education Officer at the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM). He worked with ACON in the Enhanced Primary Care Project as well as with the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) as their Treataware Project Officer. He also worked together with pharmaceutical companies to help bring vital HIV drugs to market in Australia.
With an established focus on HIV treatment throughout his career, Tony was excited to join the VAC board at a time when biomedical prevention’s role in ending HIV was being fully realised with the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the impact of an undetectable viral load in people living with HIV.
In the 1990s, Tony’s work in the PLWHA program when deaths from AIDS were a weekly, sometimes daily, occurrence was characterised by sensitivity, care, generosity of spirit and genuine regard for the clients — many of whom were friends of Tony’s from the community. He could often be seen sharing a meal or a coffee with clients, talking through treatment options and encouraging people to never give up hope - often in the face of seriously debilitating illness and the tragic reality of facing death. For his own part, he never allowed the toll of the epidemic to show, always cheerful with a wicked sense of humour he was always ready with a smile and a welcome, no matter how difficult the circumstances or the issues he was facing with his clients and friends.
Looking back on his career, a colleague recounted how Tony assisted a young HIV positive couple to access vertical transmission prophylaxis, prior to the publication of the landmark study, so that they had a healthy, HIV negative baby. In a world before the internet, knowing that this information was out there before publication was truly remarkable. Tony was incredibly knowledgable and he genuinely cared about people.
“Today, we lost piece of our history and our legacy,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth. “As a community-led organisation, we are indebted to LGBTI community elders like Tony who have stayed with us — from our formation in response to HIV through to our current battles to ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of our LGBTI communities.”
VAC President Chad Hughes added, “Tony brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to VAC. His legacy is woven into the fabric of so many of the organisations that played a vital role in the Australian response to HIV and AIDS. We will miss his unwavering dedication but will feel the impact of his valuable contribution in perpetuity.”
09 Feb 2018
National access to breakthrough HIV prevention drug to become a reality in Australia
9 February 2018 - The Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) welcomes today’s announcement that the Pharmaceutical Benefit Advisory Committee (PBAC) is recommending pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) — making this gamechanging tool for HIV prevention accessible across Australia.
Globally, PrEP has proved to be highly effective at preventing the acquisition of HIV. In May 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved PrEP for use in Australia, but the drug remained expensive to acquire. Meanwhile, demonstration trials launched across Australia to make PrEP available to those communities most at risk of acquiring HIV. These trials have played an important role in making PrEP accessible until it could be listed on the PBS, but with each state independently launching trials, access has been inconsistent nationally.
“There’s no doubt that PrEP is a highly effective tool in HIV prevention. The challenge has been making sure it’s accessible and affordable,” said VAC President Chad Hughes.
“Today’s decision allows for a way forward, to fully realise PrEP’s potential in helping us see a future with no new transmissions of HIV in Australia.”
Victoria has seen a significant community interest in PrEP in recent years and VAC has worked alongside community organisations, researchers, politicians, and consumer groups to work toward making this important HIV prevention tool within reach.
VAC CEO Simon Ruth remarked, “The community demand for PrEP is undeniable. Victoria’s PrEP-X trial became one of the fastest enrolled PrEP trials in the world and has seen the trial expand into South Australia and Tasmania. The communities we’re working with have made it clear that they want to be able to look after their sexual health. PrEP allows them to do so with confidence.”
The Australian Government has previously committed to adding PrEP to the PBS following a positive recommendation from PBAC.
“We commend the Australian Government on their standing commitment to add PrEP to the PBS in a timely manner following the PBAC recommendation. This demonstrates a firm commitment to seeing an end to HIV in Australia,” Mr Ruth added.
“Today’s announcement is reflective of Australia’s history in responding to HIV and AIDS - community led organisations working alongside clinicians, researchers, and government for a way forward. We applaud the efforts of AFAO, as well as community advocates like PrEP’d For Change and PrEP Access Now that have furthered the dialogue around PrEP and that have empowered the community to advocate for this breakthrough prevention tool.”