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Personal Perspective

As the President of People Living with HIV/AIDS (Victoria, Australia), the most enjoyable thing is seeing how alive and well the HIV support network is, not only in the work of our organisation, which is considerable, but among people that I meet in the streets, pubs and clubs. It's really encouraging when someone comes up to me when I'm out or at a venue and asks, "what's the latest?" I don't always know the latest about HIV but I feel privileged when invited to share experiences of living with the virus with another positive person. One of the unusual aspects of this kind of engagement is that I often find a lot of support where I least expect it.

 

For a long time deep down I wanted to do something for positive peoples rights. I'm one of those types who find it quite difficult to stand back and do nothing. Early difficult experiences of friends who had been involved in HIV/AIDS organisations and the public struggles played out in the press frightened me away from getting involved. Except for a serious decline in my health in 1996 and the organisational review of Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men's Health Centre, I probably still wouldn't have got involved. I was admitted to the Alfred Hospital with PCP and that gave me a chance to have a firsthand experience of the state of services for people with HIV/AIDS. I felt so unwell at the time and my immune system was crashing. I didn't think I'd pull through. I did, however, and with encouragement decided I'd try and do something to improve services. That's when my interest in advocacy around treatment and health services started. I have discovered that it is actually exciting and rewarding to have a say in shaping the way services are going to be provided.

 

In developing ourselves as an independent organisation PLWHA (Vic) has been through a rocky patch over the last 6 months. Things could have been easier, however, major organisational change is inherently a complex and sometimes difficult process and the PLWHA Board has continued to stay well focused on the big issues. One of the things I've strived to communicate to our membership is that to be involved should not mean that you get stressed or burnt-out. From time to time particularly I have observed in the HIV sector a common disregard for the effect stress has on positive people's health. I hope that one of the defining things of my leadership is that it becomes clear that to participate in the life of PLWHA (Vic) is fun and worthwhile and as a member you can expect to receive support and encouragement. I want your involvement to provide opportunities for personal and organisational growth through mutual support and the contribution you make. I hope that through friendship, information sharing and a sense of belonging everyone has a chance to build self esteem, confidence and capacity to deal with the virus.


Story by John

This story has been kindly sent by PLWHA Victoria, Australia. Added to the site September, 1999.

 
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