Black compass with needle pointing the country Australia. Other countries around the dial include USA, Canada and Malaysia.

Travelling to and settling in Australia – for work, for fun, for study, for pleasure, moving for a new job, moving away from parents and family, leaving another country to be free and safe.

Whatever your reason for moving to Australia, when you travel with HIV, no doubt you’re thinking about your health, especially your access to HIV medication, and your social connections. You might also be feeling overwhelmed with many conflicting emotions of uncertainty, fear, safety, and stress from the changing environment.

Settling into a new city is not an easy task and it won’t happen overnight. There’s a lot to think about and manage. You need to research how you are going to take care of your health and connect with the right services and supports you need. This means finding out where you can get your medications from and those costs will be something to consider.

Making sure you can continue your medical care and get support, is vital for your health. Sometimes language, culture and financial barriers make it hard to find what’s around for people who have just recently moved from overseas. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also changed things for everyone, and we’re all feeing more concerns and anxieties of how things will be in a few months’ time. Everything is still all up in the air and uncertain.

Living in a city is also damn expensive! Whether you’ve moved to Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle or another major city in NSW. While COVID has seen some rental prices fall, the economic and social issues during this pandemic mean that for many people, renting is still expensive, and costs of living can be high. Employment in Australia can be very competitive and hard to find in the first place. Many people coming to Australia take many different types of work to support themselves and this can range from stacking shelves in Coles or Woolworths, waiting on tables in restaurants or fast-food takeaways, to doing sex-work in parlours or online. It may be easy to say that the opportunities are endless, this is not the case for everyone.

Doing this without your friends and family around can be like being on a rollercoaster. You might find yourself juggling your expectations of living here on your own resources and managing your feelings in a new country.

The opportunity of moving to a new city has a flip side. The feeling of being distanced from all the familiar places and faces you knew before can be uncomfortable. This could be very daunting and even challenging. You may be experiencing struggles, confusion, disconnection, isolation and many other feelings that aren’t pleasant.

I remember when I moved to Auckland when I was younger, to be with my partner at the time. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a job either. Studying was expensive, so it was hard to figure out what to focus on. I’ve gotta admit this was a very hard time for me. Now that I look at it in retrospect, I pulled through even though things were crap. Things were slow at first but eventually they started falling into place.

One of the first things that started to change things for me, was when I began to reach out and make my own circle of friends. I knew that making connections was an important ritual in moving to a new place. It definitely had a flow-on effect on my social life, relationships and health.

For travellers, one of the best sources to access health advice in NSW, are the sexual health clinics. These clinics are accessible across NSW, confidential and free, and you do not need a Medicare card. Most of these clinics you can walk-in without a booking. If you are concerned about privacy, you don’t need to use your real name or even show ID.

When I finally found work, I realised the workplace was not only a good place to make friends, but a chance to feel comfortable in a new community. Whatever your workplace, it’s important make sure you are comfortable there and your boss is not exploiting you just because you are unfamiliar and new. Australia has strong laws around employment for all people, so don’t be afraid to find out what union, laws, guidelines or pay awards cover your situation. If you find out that other people doing your job are getting paid more, you can always ask your employer for higher rates or at least an explanation.

As someone living with HIV, you can always get support or advice by contacting Positive Life. We’re also living with HIV ourselves and understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.

If you want to have a chat or a ‘yarn’, or just want to understand how the health system works or have a question about your medication, we’re always here to give you a hand. You can always get support from others who’ve been where you are right now, and it won’t cost you anything. Any support from Positive Life is free.

Here in NSW there are a plethora of choices that are at your doorstep, with open doors to places and people you might not have known before. A word of advice, trust your instincts, believe in yourself and do things that feel right for you.

Positive Life is here to help you out with details you want to know, or if you have queries or not sure about something. We can connect you to helpful faces and places. Send us an email on contact@positivelife.org.au or call (02) 9206-2177 or 1800 245 677 (freecall outside metro).

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support
housing support for people living with HIV
Ageing Support
Treatments and Managing your HIV
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TALKABOUT