I recently caught up with a friend and told him I’d started a new job at Positive Life NSW.
“Great!” he said, “what’s the role”? I told him that I was the new Positive Life ‘Treatments Officer’. He looked at me puzzled for a moment.
I could tell he was thinking ‘what in the world is a Treatments Officer?’ Finally, he asked, “so what do you do?”
After a brief pause and some thought, I responded, “Well, I offer peer support, provide HIV education, advocate for people’s rights and better health outcomes for people with HIV and I connect people with others who ‘get’ the experience of living with HIV.
With this conversation in mind, I’ve written this short post to break it down a bit more and describe what Positive Life offers as an organisation for all people living with HIV in NSW, especially the kind of work I do as a Treatments Officer.
My friend and mentor, the late Geoff Honnor taught me a lot of important life lessons. Especially the value of finding your tribe! Connecting with our peers, supporting, and learning from each other’s experiences can build confidence and self-esteem. This is especially true for those of us living with HIV.
There are a range of peer support options available to all people living with HIV across the country and right here in NSW. Peers Connect Online! is an inclusive online group for all people living with HIV regardless of gender, sexuality or postcode. If you are a gay man recently diagnosed with HIV in NSW, connect with me about an [aStart]x workshop (previously called Genesis). If you’re a heterosexual man or woman living with HIV in NSW, seeking others to share a laugh or two with and reduce some of the social isolation which has come about from COVID-19, give us a call to find out more about or the Social Club (which meets monthly for dinner).
There’s a range of peer-led groups available. They’re all free and run by other people living with HIV. We’ll be getting together face-to-face for all our events when it is COVID-safe to do so.
After working in the HIV sector for the past ten years, I have been asked all kinds of questions about living with HIV, taking meds, including navigating sex and HIV.
“How do HIV meds work”?
“Can I collect my pills from my local pharmacy”?
“I am HIV positive and I would like to start a family. What do I need to consider”?
Getting a positive HIV diagnosis and learning about the virus can be overwhelming. While your doctor is there to work with you to manage your HIV and your health, a positive peer is someone who gets what it’s like for you, and shares a lived experience of HIV and how it can fit into your life. We might not have all the answers, but as a Treatments Officer and a peer, together we can find the answers that work for you. I’m also working closely with HIV clinicians across NSW to make sure your health is a priority, as well as your quality of life.
In NSW, the community of people living with HIV is diverse, and we celebrate the life of each person and value their particular lived experience of HIV. It is our job to be ready when our community wants to talk about what it’s like to live with HIV, and advocate on your behalf.
As the Treatments Officer, I lead a range of community-based research around the many different dimensions of HIV in consultation with community members. Positive Life runs forums to inform and provide you with information about the latest research and treatments. We are here to represent all people living with HIV across NSW so it’s important we hear what’s on your mind and understand what it’s like for you to live with HIV, and especially what kind of support you need to live your life, your way.
Positive Life has a long and proud 33-year history of advocating for our community of all people living with HIV in NSW. Alongside our community and working with our partners we made HIV meds available at community pharmacies; advocated for the co-payment waiver for our HIV meds in NSW; pushed for the introduction of an immediate start to HIV treatment after a new diagnosis; called for changes to HIV disclosure laws and raised community awareness around HPV and anal cancer for all people living with HIV. If you’re interested to find out more about how things have changed or improved for people living with HIV in NSW and further work we are doing, have a look here in the policy and research space.
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with HIV, or you have questions about HIV medications, viral load, want to talk about how to tell a partner or family member about your diagnosis, have questions about immigration, need access to HIV meds and Medicare, or just feel out of sorts, give Positive Life a call.
As the Treatments Officer, I’m usually one of the first people you speak with, or if you’re coming along to one of our peer support groups, I’m around to support and work together with you to find answers or ways you’re looking for. While you might not always need us, we’re only a phone call or email away when you do.
Get the latest on any info, news or programs that could make your life a little easier. Give us a call on (02) 9206-2177 or 1800 245 677 (freecall outside metro), or drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org