United to stop AIDS

WORKING TOGETHER: BADAC dual diagnosis nurse Marie Degrazia and Ballarat Community Heath sexual health nurse Jenny Morrison. Picture: Kate Healy.

WORKING TOGETHER: BADAC dual diagnosis nurse Marie Degrazia and Ballarat Community Heath sexual health nurse Jenny Morrison. Picture: Kate Healy.

Three leading welfare organisations are banding together to raise awareness of Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

The Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative is teaming up with Uniting Care and Ballarat Community Health in a joint initiative to mark World AIDS Day this Thursday. 

The global day raises awareness across the world and in the community about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. 

It is also a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

BADAC social and emotional well-being nurse Marie Degrazia said since the first diagnosis of HIV in Australia 30 years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities had relatively low rates of HIV diagnosis similar to that of the non-Aboriginal population.

However, new national data revealed the rate of HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities had increased in the last five years. 

“We need to keep the conversations going about HIV, to increase community awareness and prevention initiatives,” Ms Degrazia said.

Ballarat Community Health sexual health nurse Jenny Morrison said the biggest message was about raising awareness and prevention across the community.

“There are more tools for HIV prevention than ever before,” she said. “But there seems to a sense of complacency about safe sex.” 

“People need to be aware about HIV protection and the safe sex message because everybody needs to take responsibility for their health.

“The more you marginalise specific groups, the more you stigmatise, so we need to open up the dialogue and everyone needs to take responsibility.”   

To mark the day, BADAC, Uniting Care and Ballarat Community Health will be hosting a free barbecue and tree planting event at youth drug and alcohol facility Tabor House at 11am.

It is hoped the outdoor space where the Black Sheoak tree will be planted can be used as and cultural and healing garden for struggling youth at the centre. 

BADAC will also be hosting an educational seminar with Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s sexual health and blood borne virus coordinator Garry Sattell at the organisation’s main office, 5 Market Street, Ballarat from 2pm.