People living with HIV and AIDS have been at the heart of Australia’s response to the epidemic since it first reached Australia’s shores, although this has not always been recognised.
At the 1988 national AIDS conference in Tasmania, a group of twenty activists took to the stage during the closing plenary and demanded that HIV positive people be given the visibility and public representation they deserved. This 1988 protest led to the formation of the National Association of People with HIV Australia and the establishment of the National People Living with AIDS Coalition (NPLWAC).
This public activism drew increased attention to the concerns of people living with HIV and AIDS. It is important to emphasise though, the strong volunteer contribution people living with HIV and AIDS made since 1983, when the first person died of AIDS-related causes in Australia.
People living with HIV and AIDS have volunteered their time to organisations such as ACON, Ankali, CSN and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. Many put aside their own health concerns to assist others with home care, to serve on boards, to participate in new drug trials and to work to educate others and reduce the stigma that has needlessly surrounded HIV and AIDS.