BY JAZ SINGH-BRAR
World AIDS Day this December will facilitate the continuing fight against HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination.
In the wake of popular actor Charlie Sheen’s announcement of his HIV positive status, health leaders are calling for more community education regarding the virus.
To mark the day on December 1, the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) will host a ‘Q & Gay’ fundraiser forum at Midnight Shift hotel on Oxford Street.
The forum will include popular radio host and founder of the social media campaign #DIYRainbow, James Brechney, as well as ACON’s director of HIV and Sexual Health
Karen Price, drag queen Krystal Kleer, artist Campbell Clarkson, and GetUp’s Sally Rugg.
Other fundraising events to take place in Sydney include the Red Ribbon Appeal from November 30 and the ‘Red Party’ on Oxford Street.
Ms Price said the forum was part of a vital step towards ending stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and defeating the virus.
“Obviously the less stigma we have, the more people will be inclined to be tested, therefore we can detect HIV earlier and drive down the community viral load.”
“We need to achieve these things if we want HIV to end,” she told City Hub.
Although the HIV scare campaigns of the ‘90s have left television screens, fear and misunderstanding of the virus continues in Australia.
New treatments for HIV has reduced transmission rates, but has also made the sexual landscape for gay men more complicated than ever.
Sydney Artist Campbell Clarkson started the use of a (+u) tagline on his dating profile to inform people that although he had HIV, medication had meant that his viral load was undetectable.
People who take anti-viral medication have virtually zero chance of spreading the virus.
Mr Clarkson said that next week’s events would enhance community understanding of the virus.
“The Q&A and World AIDS Day provide a platform to show people there are a lot of ordinary people who can catch HIV; it doesn’t discriminate,” he told City Hub.
“It doesn’t care about what age you are, where you come from, or your sexuality, and I think people have forgotten that.”
Mr Brechney, who will also be Master of Ceremonies for the night, said the event was a relaxed way for the community to come forward to discuss the issue, rather than let fear prevent change.
“This Q&A is required for conversations to continue, to highlight that stigma still is a massive issue that’s based around unfounded fear, especially with how far we have come with treatment,” Mr Brechney said.
“Everyone has a chance to share their story, and those who do and have large followings, definitely do make a big difference.”