Today is World AIDS Day; a day to raise awareness of AIDS and to challenge the stigma that is associated with it. Also on this day, communities around the globe will gather to support people living with the virus and remember those who have died from AIDS-related illness.
‘CatholicCare’s AIDS Ministry team, led by Marg Hayes and ably supported by Lisa Gobbo, faithfully walk with our people living with HIV/AIDS,’ said Paul Zammit, Senior Manager Pastoral Services.
‘World AIDS Day is a good time to pause and keep in my mind our people, and people around the world who continue to stand in their integrity, despite the persistent stigma and judgement that continues in our day.’
Every Monday, the AIDS Ministry team host a social lunch for people living with HIV/AIDS. Last financial year over 375 people joined CatholicCare at the St Mary of the Cross Centre in Fitzroy to share a meal and good company. We asked some of them about their thoughts on World AIDS Day, and here are a few of their responses:
‘We hope for more awareness and knowledge about HIV so that people in the community won’t continue with prejudice and discrimination that comes from not knowing.’
‘How fortunate we are to be living with HIV in the Western world where there is treatment available and accessible!’
‘[World AIDS Day is] is a recognition of how people who have lived with HIV for a long time, have coped with very difficult treatment regimes and yet survived, often experimental regimes, and now there is so much better treatment.’
‘It is a time to remember.’
‘There is still so much stigma and discrimination around this virus and it impacts hugely on those of us living with HIV. There are programs around that help with this, eg Lunch at St Mary of the Cross Centre where we feel safe in the knowledge that we won’t be judged, the ENUF program badges, and statements from Living Positive Victoria saying that we have endured enough stigma and discrimination.’
In May this year, Anthony McCarthy (previously a member of the AIDS Ministry team) spoke out about the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS at the Melbourne AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Infected with HIV as a child after life-saving blood transfusions, Anthony shared his difficult journey and discussed how relieved and proud he felt in sharing his secret with the world, along with how he felt obligated to speak up to help others suffering with HIV. You can watch his moving video below.
Today, Marg Hayes will lead the Remembering Service at Positive Living Centre.
You can find out about other events in Victoria, by visiting the World AIDS Day Australia site.