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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


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.



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”.


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.”

15 Apr 2020

Thorne Harbour Launches COVID-19 Rainbow Connection Service

LGBTI Victorians who are isolated or impacted by COVID-19 will now be able to access additional social connection and support services through Thorne Harbour Health’s Rainbow Connection.

Launched today, the COVID-19 Rainbow Connection offers a range of services to LGBTI communities throughout Victoria including peer support and assistance with food and housing issues.

“COVID-19 has created an unprecedented social change in our community that has seen many people being isolated from usual connections and supports. Thorne Harbour Health’s Rainbow Connection program is here to fill the gap for the many LGBTI people who find themselves without adequate support or struggling with food or housing security,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

“We know that maintaining meaningful connections to community has a profoundly positive impact on people’s sense of self, feelings of anxiety/distress and general wellbeing. For this reason, and to address the challenges caused by the physical distancing measures in place, Rainbow Connection actively links isolated LGBTI people with the services and supports they need to get by during this time.”

With the support of the Victorian Government for the next three months, Thorne Harbour has been able to extended their existing Community Support program for LGBTI seniors and people living with HIV to now include any LGBTI people who are isolated or impacted by COVID-19.

“Many LGBTI people have lost jobs, are struggling financially or with their mental health as a result of COVID-19,” said Simon Ruth.

“Thorne Harbour Health continues to be there for the community with an expansion of our Rainbow Connection program that is providing support to any LGBTI person who is struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 in their lives.”

The COVID-19 Rainbow Connection is a state-wide, volunteer-driven service supporting LGBTI people across Victoria.

The COVID-19 Rainbow Connection service can be contacted 9AM – 5PM, Monday to Friday by phoning 1800 961 780 or via email rainbowconnection@thorneharbour.org.

26 Mar 2020

Thorne Harbour calls for communities to stop having casual sex during COVID-19

For the first time in its four-decade history, Thorne Harbour Health is calling on communities to stop having casual sex in the face of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is calling on LGBTI communities and people living with HIV to limit their risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “We’re faced by an unprecedented global health crisis. While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, the close personal contact we have when during sex poses a serious risk of COVID-19 transmission. We need people to stop having casual sex at this stage.”

“But after four decades of sexual health promotion, we know abstinence isn’t a realistic strategy for most people. We need to look at ways we can minimise risk while maintaining a healthy sex life.”

Last week, the organisation released a resource with strategies to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while having sex. Strategies included utilising sex tech, solo sexuality, and limiting your sexual activity to an exclusive sexual partner, commonly known as a ‘f*ck buddy’.

“You can reduce your risk by making your sexual network smaller. If you have a regular sexual partner, have a conversation about the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provided both of you are limiting your risk by working from home and exercising physical distancing from others, you can greatly reduce you chance of COVID-19 transmission,” said Simon Ruth.

The organisation’s stance is not dissimilar from advice from the UK government. Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries advised couples not cohabitating to consider testing their relationship by moving in together during the country’s lockdown.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth released a video message today addressing sex & COVID-19 following last week’s message about physical distancing.

Both videos as well as the ‘Sex, Intimacy & Coronavirus’ info sheet can be found on here.

14 Feb 2020

‘Rolled’ and ‘Stressless Sam’ voted top two films of QuitFlicks 2020

The results of the QuitFlicks 2020 short film competition are in, with Australians voting Rolled by Rosie Pavlovic (winner) and Stressless Sam by Hugh Murray (runner-up) as their two favourite films of the competition.

Announced at last night’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) Program Launch, both films uniquely address the issue of smoking in LGBTIQA+ communities, who experience smoking rates more than double the national average.

Set in a gritty, quintessentially-Melbourne pub, Rolled by Rosie Pavlovic (East Brunswick, Victoria) follows a young lesbian couple on a date, who uncover a good reason to ditch the smokes when an attempt to evade the bitter gaze of an ex-girlfriend leads them to experience first-hand the statistically significant finding* that smokers’ areas of pubs have the highest concentration of ex-girlfriends.

In Hugh Murray’s (Docklands, Victoria) quirky film Stressless Sam, a non-binary sock-puppet named Sam tries to quit smoking with the help and support of their friends. The attempt to quit smoking proves difficult as the stressors of Sam’s life overwhelm them. With the help and support of friends, Sam manages to beat the cravings and finally quit.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White congratulated Rosie and Hugh on their success, and all the finalists and filmmakers for using their creativity for a positive cause.

“The filmmakers took on the challenge of creating messages about smoking that resonate with the community, and they excelled. They’ve shown that it’s entirely possible to entertain and engage audiences while relaying a critical health message for the LGBTIQA+ community,” Dr White said.

MQFF Chief Executive Officer Maxwell Gratton was excited to announce that the two winning films will be screened throughout the Melbourne Queer Film Festival March 12 – 23. “Rosie and Hugh’s films will be seen by more than 30,000 community members and festival patrons. It’s wonderful to be able to support budding local filmmakers to showcase their talent but it’s also gratifying to support a cause with such benefit to the community,” Maxwell Gratton said.

Thorne Harbour Health’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Ruth spoke to the significance of the QuitFlicks project and partnership. “This project has enabled a conversation about the normalisation of smoking in LGBTI communities and how we have the power to change that to improve our ongoing health and wellbeing,” Simon Ruth said.

The other two QuitFlicks finalists were Teddy Darling (Balwyn, Victoria) with One Breath at a Time, and Millie Hayes (O’Connor, ACT) with her creation, Quit Together.

Watch all film finalists now quit.org.au/quitflicksvoting.

(*Based on anecdotal evidence only. No actual scientific rigour applied.)


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