July 21, 2014

Stepping up the pace: NAPWHA’s Poz Action leads the way!

Written by Alex Mindel. Alex is the Communications and Membership Services Officer at the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)

Numbers of newly diagnosed cases of HIV infection in Australia have continued to rise; 2012 saw the highest annual rise in 20 years. This reveals the limitations of established HIV prevention methods and underscores the need to evaluate the received wisdom of the past. Future prevention strategies should involve an emphasis on positive communities and the installation of the positive voice at the very centre of the HIV response.

PozAction is a radical new movement that demands a central and vital role for PLHIV in Australia’s HIV response. It is a group, made up of the operational leadership of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and its four largest member organisations, guided by the priorities and directions set by the positive membership base. It seeks to enhance the potential of HIV positive engagement and leadership by sharing best practice, collaborating on joint projects and identifying common cross-jurisdictional issues for PLHIV. Its power lies in a coordinated implementation strategy that ensures maximum effect through efforts in concert across all jurisdictions. Members are currently working collectively to combat the criminalisation of HIV, to define and promote the crucial role of PLHIV in prevention efforts and to remove barriers to testing and treatments access.

PLHIV organisations represent the diverse and evolving experiences of living with HIV. The ‘lived experience’ identity and its authority are essential to the production of quality and effective prevention, treatment and care responses to HIV. It will not be possible to achieve treatment and prevention targets of sustainable impact without concerted efforts to combat social, legal and treatment access obstructions which impact on the lives of PLHIV and which consistently undermine an effective community response.

HIV positive alliances and organisations have articulated a vision of the end of HIV. An organised, empowered, self-determining and engaged PLHIV membership base consisting of individuals in control of and aware of their status, with ready access to testing and treatment and free from criminal restrictions which discourage disclosure is the key to the success of that vision.

NAPWHA president Robert Mitchell poignantly noted that, ‘We have the tools at our disposal, available now, to fundamentally alter the course of the epidemic. This is a precarious moment for Australia…. an end to the HIV epidemic is not just rhetoric, it’s possible and Australia can lead the way. We have it within our power to stop the epidemic if we have enough commitment to a bold enough vision.’ Australia needs Poz Action now more than ever…

While you’re in the Global Village look out for Central and Vital over 30 years, NAPWHA’s curated exhibition featuring memorabilia and artifacts that define the past 30 years of HIV in Australia. The exhibition will cover art, politics community action and highlights the history of PLHIV activism.