Volunteers and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Sydney 1980s-1990s
Being a Volunteer
At a time when HIV and AIDS were heavily stigmatised, Sydney volunteers stood shoulder to shoulder with those affected.
For some gay men, volunteering provided a means of coping with a seemingly relentless epidemic, while others felt obligated to assist as people they knew fell sick. It was about making sure that friends and lovers were treated with the dignity society refused to give them.
Volunteers provided in-home care, answered telephones, served on boards and committees, designed and produced educational resources, conducted outreach across the community, from beats through to nightclubs, fundraised wherever possible and offered a range of other support services.
While some people volunteered for short but intense periods, others spent years helping to manage the epidemic. For those individuals, the arrival of HIV and AIDS completely altered their life course.
Volunteers helped to manage what threatened to become Australia’s biggest public health crisis of the 20th century, often paying a personal or professional price for their efforts. Yet, so many of these individuals stress how important volunteering was to them as a means of coping and contributing during a time of great crisis.