Supporting people living with HIV in Western Sydney

SUPPORT SYSTEM: "The Positive Action Community Grant will assist HIV+ youth reconnect with one another through various activities, such as camps, day trips and networking sessions," Colleen Neville said. Picture: Isabella Lettini
SUPPORT SYSTEM: "The Positive Action Community Grant will assist HIV+ youth reconnect with one another through various activities, such as camps, day trips and networking sessions," Colleen Neville said. Picture: Isabella Lettini

For young people who are Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive (HIV+) in Sydney’s western suburbs, isolation and lack of access to services can make the disease hard to deal with.

ViiV Healthcare, a global specialist HIV company dedicated to delivering advances in treatment and care for people living with HIV, has recently awarded The Western Suburbs Haven a share in $180,000 in funding.

The Seven Hills organisation received $6879 to fund its Positive Action Community Grants program, which is specifically targeted at helping HIV+ 18 to 30-year-olds in Sydney’s west, who don’t usually have the means to access services in the community.

Colleen Neville, The Western Suburbs Haven manager and organiser of the Positive Action Community Grant, said the financial backing will help HIV+ youth “regain a sense of self by empowering them to access services such as healthcare in the area, and will provide opportunities for social and emotional connections”.

“Young HIV positive people face isolation within the services that are on offer, as these are usually accessed by older, long-term people with HIV or those whose experiences differ vastly from their own,” she said.

“As soon as HIV+ suffers turn 18 they have to transition into adult services, so a lot of them are no longer eligible to access support camps where they had already met peers around the same age who share common interests.”

An estimated 25,313 Australians are currently living with HIV. However, the number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia has remained stable over the years.

Over 1000 new cases of HIV have been diagnosed each year from 2013 to 2015, according to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation.

Sadly, there is still a stigma around HIV.

Colleen Neville

“If HIV+ people are taking their medication – it’s possible for them to become ‘undetectable’, meaning they virtually can’t pass on the virus to others,” Ms Neville of Penrith said.

“One of the biggest reasons for ongoing HIV transmissions in Australia is HIV+ people failing to access healthcare services and treatment – due to feelings of shame or isolation in the community.

“This new program looks to make a real positive impact on the HIV+ population, and has the potential to reduce HIV transmission rates in the area, by ensuring HIV+ youth are accessing the treatment and support they need.”