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Positive Living in Southbank

09 Nov 2017

Positive Living in Southbank Image

Did you know that the head office of Living Positive Victoria, a not-for-profit organisation focused on helping improve the lives of Victorians living with HIV/AIDS, is based in here in Southbank?

The organisation has worked out of its current headquarters on Coventry St for the past six years and next year, it will celebrate 30 years of helping Victorians affected by the virus.

Originally established as a project of the Victorian AIDS Council, Living Positive Victoria has been committed to advancing health, wellbeing and the human rights of all people living with HIV in Victoria since 1988.

Acting CEO Suzy Malhotra told Southbank Local News that, while the Victorian Aids Council had always been concerned with preventing the spread of the virus, Living Positive Victoria had always been helping people who had been diagnosed.

“Not everyone has access to information about the best medications out there and not everyone has access to learning skills to challenge the stigma and discrimination that people with HIV were facing,” she said.

“What’s key to know about the organisation is that we’re very much invested in building the capacity and resilience of people living with HIV so they become drivers of their own lives.”

According to Suzy, around 6500 Victorians currently live with HIV, which is part of an estimated 25,000 people across Australia living with the epidemic, first discovered in the 1980s.

However, while original HIV medications were considered ineffective and often harmful to patients, Suzy said that prognosis for patients these days was far more positive due to breakthroughs in a new class of treatments.

The organisation provides a range of workshops, peer support and activities that increase the mental, emotional and social wellbeing of those living with, or affected by HIV.

While largely supported by the Department of Health, the organisation’s work is also made possible by a mixture of philanthropic support.

Last month it received a share in close to $155,000 through pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare’s grants program, for a project involving HIV peer-liaison in general practice clinics to support retention in care for people newly diagnosed.

Suzy said the value of this type of support for all of its peer-led initiatives could not be understated.

“The lived and the shared experience of peers, as in workers who are living with HIV themselves, in this kind of workplace cannot be underestimated enough,” she said.

“There’s an empathy, there’s a commonality of a journey that’s shared or lived together and when you’ve got somebody who’s diagnosed absolutely scared asking what it all means it’s absolutely invaluable to have that support.”

Living Positive Victoria is one of the three major organisations in Victoria focused on the wellbeing of HIV patients, along with Positive Women Victoria and Straight Arrows (heterosexuals with HIV), which last year completed a successful merge with Living Positive Victoria.

And interestingly enough, all three are based on Coventry St here in Southbank!

“All of us are located in this building,” Suzy said. “Our services are very diverse. It’s families, it’s children, it’s men, it’s women, it’s people of different multicultural backgrounds and it’s nice that we’ve got a one-stop shop here really.”

“The HIV sector is one of the few health sectors that has genuinely harmonious relationships between clinicians, pharmaceuticals, community organisations as well as individuals and the department of health that supports us,” she said.

To find out how you can get involved with the organisation or donate to its efforts visit livingpositivevictoria.org.au

 

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