World AIDS Day 2018: Jill Hennessy speaks on stigma and discrimination

In the lead up to World AIDS Day this year, there has been the release of the biographical film Bohemian Rhapsody which dived into detail about the journey of British rock band Queen, a journey that for frontman Freddie Mercury ended soon after an AIDS diagnosis.

Then there was Prince Harry’s attendance at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam where in following the footsteps of his mother Princess Diana, Harry joined Sir Elton John onstage for a speech of support, also announcing a billion-dollar donation.

After Harry hit a high note in Amsterdam, British Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle became the first sitting member to disclose he is HIV positive to the UK parliament. He told the House of Commons he had been living with the virus for nearly a decade.

More and more public figures are joining health professionals and advocates to campaign for a consistent conversation about HIV in the community, hoping that education about the virus and the prevention and treatment options result in better health outcomes.

Victorian Attorney-General and Member for Altona Jill Hennessy has been a popular political advocate on HIV and AIDS related matters, with the former Health Minister making a supportive speech at the Melbourne launch of World AIDS Day back in 2016.

“Eliminating stigma and discrimination is an ongoing challenge. We sometimes tend to hang out with the converted. We’ve got to be able to reach out to the non-converted, whether that’s in the medical community or the general public,” Ms Hennessy said.

“I also think that today is one of those days that we need to create space for people to have some time to reflect upon people that have loved and lost, for people that have had to carry suppressed grief, for people that have had to suffer in silence with stigma.”

“For people that have not been able to find a place where they can be safe and open and honest about what their journey has been like and what they would like their journey to be.”

“We like to think of ourselves as a pretty evolved community here in Victoria, but we still have great pockets of resistance when it comes to stigma and discrimination. It is through the power of personal stories that I do think that we change hearts and minds.”

“Keep supporting each other but be kind to yourselves on those days when it feels just too overwhelming because the sun will come up again, and there are so many people that desperately want this movement, our movement, to succeed.”

World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year. It raises awareness across the world and in the community about HIV and AIDS. It is a day for the community to show their support for people living with HIV.

It is also a day to commemorate people who have died of AIDS related conditions or other conditions associated with HIV. The national World AIDS Day theme for Australia in 2018 – is: “Everybody Counts.”

World AIDS Day aims to encourage education about HIV, take action to reduce the transmission of HIV by promoting prevention, and ensure that people living with HIV can participate fully in the life of the community, free from stigma and discrimination.

You can show your support for people with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support. For more information on the day, including local events, visit the World AIDS Day website.

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