The National Day of Women Living with HIV is held annually on the 9th of March. This is a celebration of the lives of women living with HIV in Australia. All women from around the country are invited to celebrate the day by holding a special event. This day not only establishes and maintains connections with other women living with HIV, but also raises awareness that HIV can affect all women within the broader community as well. It is an opportunity to highlight conversation topics that relate to our lives and initiate discussion surrounding our needs and how we might be best supported to create better health outcomes for women living with HIV and achieve a good quality of life.
The theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Taking control of our health’. This theme aims to encourage women living with HIV to ensure our own health is a priority and to remind us to have those all-important discussions with our specialists. After a year of dealing with COVID-19, many of us have postponed some of our regular tests we would have had with our doctors, such as blood pressure and breast checks, cervical screening and initiating a HIV test as part of our routine health check. It also aims to spread awareness about conditions that women living with HIV are statistically at a higher risk of developing, such as human papillomavirus-(HPV) related cancers, including anal and cervical cancer.
Positive Life celebrated the National Day of Women Living with HIV by holding an elegant afternoon high tea, which included an assortment of sweets and treats, and Devonshire teas. Several speakers attended the High Tea.
Jane Costello, Positive Life CEO opened the event and invited Michelle Tobin, Positive Life Aboriginal Health Program Officer and proud Aboriginal woman of the Yorta Yorta Nation who has lived with HIV since 1990 to deliver an Acknowledgement of Country. Jane introduced Associate Professor Kathy Petoumenos from the Kirby Institute next, who gave us some valuable insights into the paucity of research about women and highlighted the importance of doing co-designed research for women living with HIV. Kathy explained a new research study, the Cohort of austraLian hIv wOmen or CLIO study, that is currently being undertaken to gain insight and a greater understanding of how HIV affects women’s bodies. It is important for women living with HIV to participate and have our lived experiences included in studies to ensure our voices are heard and respected in the HIV response.
The next part of the presentation included a viewing of the Gilead video HIV – Just a part of Me which was produced in partnership between Positive Life and the National Association of People living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA). The three women living with HIV who spoke at today’s event, Jane Costello, Michelle Tobin and Natasha Io were all featured in this short video. They each recounted their inspiring stories and lived experiences to camera as an artist created artworks, while listening to each speak. Their strength and resilience shone through, and their words were the inspiration to everyone in the room.
Our final presenter Tash, who is a Positive Life Board member and Positive Speaker Bureau (PSB) speaker, touched on her video and shared some moving experiences and insights from her own journey with HIV.
It was an enjoyable afternoon with women catching up with old friends and making new ones, and we will look forward to meeting together again next year.
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