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FEB - MAR NEWSLETTER

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT P 02 6257 2855 F 02 6257 4838

aidsaction.org.au

We distribute more than 100,000 condoms every year. Condoms with water based lube is still the best way to avoid HIV.


Support for GLBT Young People Where are young people able to access support in the ACT if they are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity? What if that isn’t the issue and they just want to know that they will be treated sensitively and appropriately? • • • • • • • • • •

AIDS Action Council ACT www.aidsaction.org.au CSHC www.health.act.gov.au/sexualhealth SCOPE YWCA Youth Service 6257 1640 SHFPACT www.shfpact.org.au Junction Youth Health Services www.thejunction.org.au Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service www.winnunga.org.au ACT and Queanbeyan Youth Centres www.makingcontact.net.au BitBent Belconnen 6264 0260 and Woden 6282 3037 or email bit_bent@hotmail.com ANU Sexuality Department, including Jellybabies Club 6125 8514 or sexdep@anu.edu.au New Canberra Transgender Network www.newcanberratransgendernetwork.synthesite.com

Information sourced from The Big Red Book: A handbook and directory for people who work with young people in the ACT. Version 4, (2008) Youth Coalition of the ACT.

Contents

Up Front Here at Westlund House we have long maintained the importance of recognising the direct connection between freedom and health. Of course this was never an original idea of ours, but is central to the Ottawa Charter and the ‘social determinants of health’. Stigma and discrimination are critical and continuing issues for the communities we serve, and until they disappear, there will always remain a likelihood of poorer health outcomes for marginalised communities. Now there is new research that establishes a clear link between rejection in families and negative health outcomes. The paper, authored by Dr Caitlin Ryan and her team at the César E. Chávez Institute in San Francisco, has established a predictive link between specific negative family reactions to their child’s sexual orientation and serious health problems for these adolescents as they enter young adulthood. These consequences include depression, illegal drug use, risk of HIV infection and suicide attempts. More chilling is the extent to which these occur; attempted suicide 8.4 times more likely, illegal drug use 3.4 times more likely and unprotected sexual intercourse 3.4 times more likely. We’ve been asking ourselves recently how well we are serving our younger community members and whether we are providing effective and inviting points of entry. We’ve also been questioning how well we really understand what services and support younger people might want to access. I think there is a bit of a myth that goes around claiming life for samesex attracted youth is easier today than it was 10, 15 or 25 years ago. However, I don’t think this is true for the very simple reason that nobody lives in more than one time simultaneously. There can’t be much comfort for someone feeling rejected, isolated or marginalised to be told to “cheer up, it was a lot worse when I was young”. The fact is that things can be and are very tough for young people trying to come to terms with sexuality and/or gender issues, and the resources still aren’t easily available, especially for people living in remote or rural locations.

Support for GLBT Young People Up Front National Youth Week Qnet - Canberra’s online youth community Pumped for Mardi Gras Get a FREE and easy sexual heath check Speak the whole truth...

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Frontier In Our Own Write A new booklet for people recently diagnosed with HIV Red Ribbon Campaign 2008 Partnerships Community Spotlight BitBent For Your Diary Young People, HIV and Service Delivery

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Meanwhile, we remember that 1 in 3 new HIV diagnoses are in people under 30, which means that a lot more work still needs to be done. The research I referred to above suggests strongly that all of us in this sector need a far greater understanding of what life is really like for vulnerable members of our younger communities.

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For information about the above mentioned report, please contact Westlund House and we will provide you with a copy.

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The AIDS Action Council is continuing to look for ways to fill these gaps in resources and support, and to do this we need young people to help us understand what they would like from us. We are conscious that the fight against HIV and for improved life circumstances for GLBT people generally is largely determined by middle aged people or older (like me ) and its not up to us to tell anybody what they need. That’s why we are working hard on developing points of entry for younger people so that we can learn how better we can serve.

Andrew Burry

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter


National Youth Week Megan Munro

Qnet - Canberra’s online youth community

National Youth Week is held each year across Australia at the beginning of April. This year National Youth Week will run from the 28th of March until the 5th of April. Youth Week gives the nation a chance to celebrate young people and more importantly it gives young people an opportunity to celebrate themselves. The Youth Coalition of the ACT has a major role in coordinating Youth Week in Canberra and produces a calendar of events that are being held.

Since 2003, the AIDS Action Council has been host to the Qnet Online Community. This website, funded by Healthpact, is designed to provide accessible, local and relevant information to young people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender and also those who are questioning or curious about their sexual or gender identity in the ACT and surrounds.

Youth Week Expo is usually held on the Friday night of Youth Week. It is organised by the Youth Coalition of the ACT and is generally held in Garema Place in Civic. It runs from about 3pm until late and consists of lots of stalls from various youth services, people selling items and a free sausage sizzle.

Qnet allows young people an opportunity to engage with information relevant to them. There is a list of local support services young people can access, from news and articles covering everything from love and relationships, through to coming out and legal issues. It is also a resource for people who are friends, family, and teachers to get information on how to provide support.

The Young Carer’s Breakfast is a huge breakfast which is held for young people who care for a family member who is ill. It gives young carers a chance to get together and have fun, and recognise that there’s lots of other young people like them who care for a family member.

One of the features of Qnet that allow it to become such a useful tool to those who use it is the message boards. These message boards allow the young people to communicate about events, ask questions and also discuss concerns people might be facing in their lives. This is where a lot of the sense of ‘community’ is generated. There are a huge range of topics discussed, and inappropriate materials are removed by the moderators who regularly check on the site.

Generate08 was held last year. This was hosted by the Chief Minister’s Youth Council and was an event that consisted of a number of workshops that are useful for young people. Workshops like Party Safely, where young people learn about safe behaviours for when they go out or have a party. They learn a bit about safer sex, drugs and alcohol and how to look after themselves and their friends in these situations. Most years Quamby Youth Detention Centre has run an expo day. They invite different youth services to come and hold stalls for the young people who are incarcerated. They also hold games and competitions where the young people and the youth workers all play and compete. This has provided the young people an opportunity to connect and learn about various youth services that may be able to assist them in the future.

Keiran Rossteuscher

Six years after its initial launch Qnet is still a vibrant online asset. It is recognised, however, that technology is evolving and that Qnet as we know it needs to evolve with the needs of its target audience. Where does it fit in with Facebook and Myspace? What about Twitter, Blogs and other emerging online communities and opportunities? Qnet is always looking at ways to improve and welcomes discussion and feedback about its content and future. Visit www.qnet.org.au or email info@qnet.org.au for more information or even your thoughts about the site.

SCOPE Youth Services have hosted Up Your Art for several years. Up Your Art is an art exhibition of artwork made by young people who are disadvantaged and would find access to artmaking difficult. The young people are mentored by artists and provided with materials so that they can make art pieces. The pieces are then put into the exhibition Up Your Art. This year it will be held at the ANCA Gallery in Dickson from the 24th March to the 6th of April. There are many, many other events held around Canberra for Youth Week and this includes art shows, theatre performances, skate competitions, scavenger hunts and practical workshops on issues like how to successfully rent a house, and writing workshops. These are just a few examples of the types of events held during Youth Week. For further information on Youth Week in Canberra contact Chanel Cole at The Youth Coalition of the ACT on 6247 2540 or at www.makingcontact.net/au/ youthweek

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter

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Pumped for Mardi Gras Speak the whole truth... David Mills

Stephanie Buckle

Going to Sydney at Mardi Gras this year? At Westlund House we’ve got three tips to help you have a great time and look after yourself

Young people are accessing counselling and support services in ever increasing numbers. The youth sector has been one of the fastest growing, as young people struggle with mental health problems, drug and alcohol issues, and family breakdown. Getting through the teenage years has never been easy, but these days there seem to be more challenges and fewer certainties for young people than ever.

1. Hot sex safely: It’s no secret that many people go to Mardi Gras to have a great time having sex, at venues, sex parties and spontaneous hook-ups. Make sure you take plenty of condoms and lube with you. Drop into Westlund House to grab some supplies. If you’re hosting a group sex party, we’ve got FREE party packs to help you have a great time! 2. Stay in control: Go out with friends, and look after each other. Street violence happens; don’t hesitate to contact the police or ambulance if you witness an attack. If a friend is not feeling well after taking drugs, drinking too much, is disorientated or falls unconscious, get medical attention quickly. The large parties have rovers and medics to help – otherwise call an ambulance. If you or a friend has difficulty with alcohol or drug use, contact Directions ACT on 02 6248 7677. 3. Get that post-Mardi Gras check-up: We’re running sexual health tests straight after Mardi Gras, see below for details. It’s FREE & CONFIDENTIAL and we can test you for a wide range of sexually-transmitted infections. How convenient!

Get a FREE and easy sexual health check! Taking care of your sexual health is easy thanks to the free and confidential Sexual health Testing, Referral and Information Project (STRIP) available after hours at Westlund House and at Champions Fyshwick. A check-up is quick and easy, and your results are available the following week. Allow 30 to 45 minutes for your consultation. For more information contact the AIDS Action Council on 02 6257 2855 or visit www.aidaction.org.au/strip Next STRIP dates: Consultations for the GLBT community at Westlund House, 16 Gordon Street: • • •

10:00 am to 12 noon Saturday 14 March 10:00 am to 12 noon Saturday 21 March 10:00 am to 12 noon Saturday 28 March

Consultations for men only at Champions Mustang Ranch, Molonglo Mall, Fyshwick: • • • • •

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6:00 pm to 8.30 pm Thursday 5 March 6:00 pm to 8.30 pm Thursday 12 March 6:00 pm to 8.30 pm Thursday 19 March 6:00 pm to 8.30 pm Thursday 26 March 6:00 pm to 8.30 pm Thursday 2 April

This trend has been reflected in the numbers of young people accessing the AAC Counselling Service. As many young people used the service in 2007 and 2008 as in the entire period from 2000 to 2006! As well as this, increasingly younger kids are coming for counselling. The issues young people are bringing to counselling at Westlund House are generally to do with sexuality, gender and coming out; they may be wondering if their feelings are “normal”, if there is any hope of a life for them as gay or transgendered, (Yes!), or what they should tell their parents. There is a significant number with “co morbidity” – a dreadful term that makes it sound like you’re a cot case, but just means that you’ve got more than one problem. In the case of young people, this is usually either depression and self harm, or drug and alcohol issues, in conjunction with a sexuality or gender issue. A small handful of young people have HIV issues – either they have HIV themselves, or a parent has it. There is also a small but significant number of young lesbian clients, who, while their sexuality is not an issue, are looking for help with relationship issues. The increase in the number of young people presenting with gender issues is of particular note. I think it’s partly to do with the fact that many agencies and people working in the health and welfare sector have got to know of me, and feel confident they can refer people with gender issues specifically to me. I think another reason though is to do with a gradually changing social climate in relation to awareness and understanding of gender issues in general. Being gender variant in some degree – identifying yourself as neither 100% male nor 100% female – is still one of the last great social taboo subjects; however, there is a growing awareness and exposure of the subject in the media, and a willingness on the part of more and more people to try to get to grips with the issue e.g. I have recently provided training to school counsellors in the Catholic system on working with young people with gender issues. This of course makes it easier for young people to access information and support. Of course many young people these days are computer literate and have mobile phones, which have also made a big difference to their capacity to access counselling. New clients often tell me that they found out about the counselling service through our website. Access to services has in the past been a huge problem for young people, who have felt unable to use the family phone privately, or to get information about services anonymously. I am noticing how much more confident and articulate many young people seem to be, compared to those I would see ten or twenty years ago. I can remember painful and difficult sessions with tongue tied and overwhelmed teenagers, who seemed convinced that the only form of conversation possible with an adult was an interrogation. These days, young people in counselling seem more articulate, better able to talk about their feelings, more aware of their rights, and a whole lot more confident. It’s great to see more young people coming here for counselling. We are looking for ways to make Westlund House friendlier for young people - if you have any ideas about this, let us know!

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter


Frontier

In Our Own Write

Nikki Frankenberger Frontier is an exerpt from the GLBT youth resource, In Our Own Write. If you would like to read more of the thoughts, feelings, passions, sorrows and joys of young GLBT Canberrans, come in to Westlund House and get yourself a free copy.

In Our Own Write began as a project by the AIDS Action Council that looked at expanding upon the Council’s earlier successful text written by and for GLBTI young people in the Canberra area, Yes, I am. The project began in 2006 with the successful application of funding for the project. SCOPE YWCA of Canberra Youth Service soon came on board as a partner in the project as they had shown an interest in collaborating with the AIDS Action Council, particularly around the issues of GLBTI young people.

I was about a month into my first real relationship when I went out for a night with the girls. They were old friends from work, and even though I’d long since left the job that had introduced us, I still tried to keep in touch. One of the downfalls of having an antisocial personality is that friends only try harder to keep you out there and active.

The project was designed to help empower GLBTI young people through their participation in the production of the resource that would be an opportunity for them to express themselves, but also to have those expressions read by an audience. The Council worked with SCOPE to consult with groups of GLBTI young people to determine what the resource would be, what it would look like, what it needed to have to be successful and how other young people could participate to make the resource successful.

‘We’re going clubbing,’ she said on the phone. ‘And you’re coming too. You need to pick up.’ I didn’t really want to pick up, especially not anything that they’d be able to find. ‘I’ve already got someone,’ I said, wondering whether I’d have the courage to tell the truth or whether I’d just lie through my teeth. ‘Good on you,’ she replied. ‘What’s his name?’ I muttered something, a masculine version of my girlfriend’s name. ‘Look, I’ll tell you all about it tonight.’ I got very drunk that night. The nightclub was too loud, too dark. Every question about my ‘boyfriend’ made me want to get even drunker, despite the sick and awful feeling in my stomach that every evasive half-truth brought me. Yes, he was in Canberra. We met on the internet. No, he didn’t have a car. No, I feel fine. Can I get another cruiser? I broke down at about half-past midnight, too drunk to dance, too sick to try and look like I was enjoying myself. At home the sofa was uncomfortable and the corner was almost too dark to see anything. One of my friends sat down beside me but I barely noticed. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked me.

The resource In Our Own Write was finally launched in September 2008 at the Woden Youth Centre. It was attended by approximately 70 young people and stakeholders from the youth, community and education sectors. The resource was officially launched by the General Manager of the AIDS Action Council, Andrew Burry, and was accompanied by readings by some of the contributors as well as music provided by one of the young people. The final document was 65 pages long with 31 pieces contributed by 18 young people. All contributors, including those writing in a professional capacity, were young people. The booklet has since been widely distributed. The AIDS Action Council, SCOPE and the YWCA of Canberra work hard to promote and further the distribution of the resource around the ACT and abroad. FREE copies of In Our Own Write can be found at Westlund House, SCOPE YWCA Youth Service and many other Youth Services around the ACT.

I settled back further into the hard sofa. I wished I could just make an excuse and disappear, but it was too late for buses, too early for the inconvenience of a cab fare. ‘Tell me about your boyfriend,’ she said. I don’t know why I never came out to my friends. I can only guess that it was part of the paranoia that came with being out in the workplace. While I worked there, I would have never breathed a word of it to any of them, and the fear of being ‘out’ still remained years after I had left my job. I realised finally that in the grand scheme of things it just didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t feel drunk anymore, and I didn’t feel sick.

the music pounding in our heads. ‘So,’ she said. ‘Tell me about your girlfriend.’ I turned to her and I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. ‘She’s amazing,’ I said. ‘She’s really amazing.’

‘I don’t have a boyfriend,’ I replied. ‘I’m a lesbian.’ My friend looked at me for a moment as if she thought I was kidding, but then she nodded. ‘That’s great,’ she said. ‘I’m very happy for you.’ There was nothing different in her voice, nothing mocking, nothing biased. In essence, nothing had changed. We sat beside each other in silence for a few moments,

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter

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A new booklet for people recently diagnosed with HIV Information on a range of issues including treatments, safe sex, looking after your health and the stages of adapting after diagnosis. Includes real-life stories from people who have been diagnosed with HIV. Now Available from the AIDS Action Council and PLWHA ACT.

Red Ribbon Campaign 2008 Funds raised during our Red Ribbon campaigns are preserved to directly assist people living with HIV on the poverty line. During 2008 the board resolved to direct funds raised in the Red Ribbon Campaign to Igat Hope. Igat Hope is the national network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea. During the launch of World AIDS Awareness week at the Legislative Assembly, Canberra’s PLWHA representative Kenn Basham, who visited Igat Hope last year, shared graphic accounts of a brutal life with HIV/AIDS in PNG. At the same time he was incredibly moved by the dedication, bravery, caring and potential of those he visited. We pray this small amount will alleviate the suffering of positive people in PNG in some small way.

Partnerships Nada Ratcliffe Community partnerships can come in many forms. Partnerships can exist between many types of bodies; business/community, corporate/ government, corporate/community and partnerships between community groups themselves, just to name a few. When working well, partnerships can provide great benefits for all parties involved, their client base and communities of interest. Here at the AIDS Action Council of the ACT, we are involved in many partnerships both formal and informal. For instance, we have an informal partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Qwire who regularly commit their time and great talent at AAC events such as the International Candlelight Memorial and World AIDS Day. In the area of care and support for people who are HIV positive, the Council also has important, effective formal partnerships with government and non-government agencies. One excellent partnership is the HIV Special Needs Dental Program. During 2004, a comprehensive needs analysis was conducted by the Council and it was quickly determined that a significant number of adults living with HIV in the ACT were experiencing poor dental health and were on low incomes. HIV and the side effects of treatments can have an adverse effect on oral health. Public dental waiting lists extended to over 3 years for basic dentistry, during which time their dental conditions deteriorated even more. After liaison with government dental services through ACT Health, a new program, especially for HIV positive people was developed. This is an innovative program based on a partnership approach and formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Council and the ACT Government Dental Health Service. Potential dental patients are referred through AAC/PLWHA after which, a liaison officer contacts the person to make an initial appointment. At that time an individual treatment program is developed with the dentist. The program has now been operating for approximately 3 years and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. This innovative partnership has gone a long way to address the dental concerns of positive men and women in a timely, affordable and professional manner. Another partnership based program of the AAC is the Williams Housing Program with Havelock Housing Association. This community housing program provides affordable, long term housing for positive people and their families. This has also been operational for approximately three years and has proved very successful. While the program only has a small number of properties at the moment, the AAC is keenly looking out for opportunities in community housing to increase accessible stock. It is unlikely that these two programs would have been able to come to fruition and work so successfully without the expertise and specialist capacity gained through community partnerships. Importantly, it is an approach that allows each party involved in the partnership to maintain their unique identity and values. The HIV Special Needs Dental Program and Williams Housing Program are a strong testament to the value of this co-operative approach in bringing high quality programs and services to our community. For more information on these programs, please contact Nada or Marcus on 6257-2855

The Council is delighted to announce we’ve raised $2,525.

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AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter


Community Spotlight

BitBent

Youth Sexuality and Gender Diversity Network

Matt Warren

Keiran Rossteuscher How often do we bemoan the law of unintended consequences? When something seems like a good idea or being innocent enough at first, it then ends up creating something (often catastrophic) that was never actually supposed to happen. Well sometimes these unforseen circumstances can actually produce something that is surprisingly positive. This is certainly the case for the Youth Sexuality and Gender Diversity Network (YSGDN). Now what the hell is that? It is a proactive group of workers from the Community, Youth, Health and Education sectors who feel that there is a real need to work towards providing better services and opportunities for young people who identify as being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/ or Intersex. At the same time as the collaboration of the AIDS Action Council and the SCOPE YWCA Youth Service for In Our Own Write, both organisations were asked to work with the Youth Coalition of the ACT on a resource for young people in the ACT. As both projects began drawing to a close there was discussion about the potential for the now well established strong working relationship of the three organisations to continue. It was recognised by each of the stakeholders that we were one of the only groups that were making a concerted effort to make a difference for the needs of LGBTI young people in the ACT, other than the volunteer run Bit Bent. It was agreed that this relationship would be evolved into a more structured network and opened up to other interested parties. A planning day in November 2007 established the ground rules for the network and the work plan for the following 12 months. We were lucky enough to have Meredith Turnbull, then EO of Sydney’s Twenty10 LGBT Youth Service, assist by facilitating the planning day. The YSGDN has cemented itself within the Community sector as a legitimate and proactive network. Members of the network come from a range of professional and personal backgrounds, including representation from the Transgender Community. There are people involved from the AAC, Youth Coalition, YWCA of Canberra, SHFPACT, as well as people who work in Education and other community groups. The network has provided sensitivity training called The Basics: Working with Same Sex Attracted Young People to around 60 people who work directly with young people. This was made possible by a grant from the Aurora Foundation. Work is being done to help promote the Safe Space campaigns from ACON’s Anti-violence project amongst all the Youth Centres in the ACT.

BitBent - adjective 1. slightly curved; a little crooked; anything that isn’t totally straight - noun 1. a safe haven for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, questioning or curious people, a weekly get together for anyone aged 12 - 25 who isn’t totally straight. BitBent was started in 2002 by two young Canberrans as a meeting place and resource for same-sex attracted young people. Dozens of young people have been a part of BitBent since then. Some come for a few sessions, some come for a few years. While BitBent offers information, resources and connections for young people, most members come just for the company and friendship. “Basically at first Bit Bent for me was just about feeling a little less lonely. Over time I think it’s become like a home to me. Where else can I talk freely about the hot girl on the bus or the drop dead gorgeous waitress at the place I had lunch?” Lana - 17 Some of the boys and girls who visit BitBent are a bit nervous before they come to their first meeting, but that usually doesn’t last past the end of the first visit. “Going to BitBent was a huge deal for me initially, but I am so glad I did. I have met the most generous, kind and beautiful people through this group and that is because BitBent fosters an environment where it is okay to enjoy yourself and to be yourself. Regardless of whether you’re having a good time or an incredibly bad time, there is someone there who will listen.” Tom - 24 BitBent has the generous support of organisations such as the Aids Action Council and SCOPE, as well as Woden Community Centre and the Belconnen Community Centre. A dozen volunteers have given their time to keep the groups running, however the greatest support comes from the members of the groups themselves, who turn up each week to meet their mates, make new friends and share their lives with each other. BitBent runs at the Belconnen Community Centre on Mondays from 6pm till 8pm and at Woden Community Centre on Wednesdays from 5pm till 6:30pm. If you’d like any more information, write to bit_bent@hotmail.com.

people at the highest levels and ensuring that change is systemic and not tokenistic. If you are interested in finding out more about the network and how you might be able to be involved with it and any of our exciting projects or our training, please call Erin at the Youth Coalition on 02 6247 3540 or see the website at http://www.youthcoalition.net/public/Development/YSGDN. html

The network is hoping that it will continue to be as proactive as it has been in its brief lifetime, moving on to help advocate for the needs of LGBTI young

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter

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For your Diary February 14

Natinoal Condom Day/Valentines Day

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Volunteer Meeting, 6:00 pm Westlund House

March 3

International Sex Workers Day

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Thursday STRIP Sexual Health Tests @ Champions Mustang Ranch 6:30 - 8:30 pm

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Mardi Gras Parade

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Canberra Day Public Holiday

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Thursday STRIP Sexual Health Tests @ Champions Mustang Ranch 6:30 - 8:30 pm

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Saturday STRIP @ Westlund House 10:00 - 12:00 pm

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Volunteer Meeting, 6:00 pm Weslund House

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Thursday STRIP Sexual Health Tests @ Champions Mustang Ranch 6:30 - 8:30 pm

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Saturday STRIP @ Westlund House 10:00 - 12:00 pm

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Thursday STRIP Sexual Health Tests @ Champions Mustang Ranch 6:30 - 8:30 pm

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Saturday STRIP @ Westlund House 10:00 - 12:00 pm

April 2

Thursday STRIP Sexual Health Tests @ Champions Mustang Ranch 6:30 - 8:30 pm

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Hug a Gay Day

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Volunteer Meeting, 6:00 pm Westlund House

For more community events, subscribe to the ACTQueer email list: groups.yahoo.com/group/actqueer

Join the AIDS Action Council The AAC belongs to you, the community. Proud to be a grass-roots organisation, we rely on our members. Members help us to carry out important work for our community. Join today and become part of our team. To join, contact Lynn Parry on 6257 2855 or visit www.aidsaction.org.au/membership

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Young people, HIV and service delivery: Meeting the need Opinion - Marcus Bogie It is often thought that HIV is an illness that affects older or middle aged people and, in particular older gay men. In Australia, in absolute numbers, this is correct. However there is a sizable proportion of the HIV population that is under 25 in Australia and also here in the ACT and region. It is estimated that there are 5.4 million young people living with HIV around world (UNAIDS 2007 AIDS update). The difficulties that a young person living with HIV in Canberra faces are varied and complex. It starts with being told you are HIV positive - difficult for anyone to process let alone those who are still developing into adulthood. The fundamental change in a person’s life is marked from there on. HIV/AIDS is still one of the most stigmatised diseases in the world today and positive people continue to face labelling and discrimination. Being young is often marked by associated risk taking, sexual experimentation, finding your identity and living life to the fullest. Being HIV positive from birth or contracting the disease in your formative years is likely to have a major impact on the young person’s capacity to find their way through these normal developmental stages. Young people are less likely to proactively visit health services and the continuum of care that is so essential for HIV positive people is often missed. As an adult the ever present reminder of medication, medical appointments and possible illness has been dealt with; in my case I manage them with my lifestyle. My HIV status is written about and as a peer worker discussed openly in many settings – this is my choice. A young HIV positive person does not often have that forum to discuss life issues with other young HIV positive people. There are dedicated young persons services to deal with HIV, often located in the bigger cities and referrals can readily be made such as to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick*. Social and community services here in Canberra are open to all People Living with HIV/AIDS, but really what does a young person living with HIV have in common with the larger group of service users – mostly gay men 30 and above? Not a lot. People Living with HIV/AIDS ACT (PLWHA ACT) and the AIDS Action Council (AAC) offer our services to all people living with HIV. However for young people, it has always been a complex jigsaw puzzle to ensure that their needs are being appropriately met. Young people have specific needs with psycho-social support and age appropriate service delivery to deal with issues such as diagnosis, disclosure, treatments, parenting, relationships and living positively. It is up to us as a community to ensure that those needs are being meet. * About Sydney Children’s Hospital The Paediatric HIV Service at Sydney Children’s Hospital works with children, families and pregnant women living with HIV. It is the only service of its kind in Australia and provides medical management, psycho-social support, research, consultation and education. Paediatric HIV Service, Positive Kids and Camp Goodtime.

AIDS ACTION COUNCIL OF THE ACT

February - March 09 Newsletter


AIDS Action February - March 2009