In the Loop – Free Support

In the Loop is a free support group for careers, partners, friends, and family of people living with HIV (PLHIV).

The needs of carers or partners of people living with HIV (PLHIV) have frequently taken a back seat when planning support programs within the HIV community. In the Loop is a group which seeks to redress this balance.

In May 2013, Living Positive Victoria (LPV) and Positive Health, Counselling Services at the VAC/GMHC, collaborated to run a pilot group at Coventry House in Southbank. In the past there have been specific support groups run for the HIV negative partners of HIV positive men. In the Loop was designed to cater for this group as well as for anyone who is close to someone living with HIV.
It is recognised that there are occasions when people who are involved in caring for someone with a chronic condition feel helpless in the face of illness and are unable to adequately attend to their own needs. They might postpone their own medical appointment or cancel a social engagement on account of the person they are looking after. They might feel unable to put their hand up for some extra help or not even consider the possibility of a break from their role. It might be impossible for them to enquire about their loved one’s health for fear of upsetting him or her. Left in the dark they imagine the worst.

But there is another subtle and sometimes destructive issue for many carers of PLHIV. The issue of secrecy is paramount for many people and this adds a complex layer to the caring role. Sometimes the PLHIV has requested absolute secrecy around their diagnosis. On other occasions the partner or carer may have imposed their own silence around HIV for fear of discrimination and rejection by people in their immediate circle. The effect of this secrecy and stigma may isolate the PLHIV as well as those involved in their support.

In the bad old days the type of care that was required was very different from what most PLHIV need today. However, even today, having someone in your life that is living with HIV can produce a burden which at times is difficult to shoulder. We like to think that the stigma associated with HIV has diminished in many sectors of society but how it is experienced by many is still present. This was perfectly illustrated in the group when it became apparent that the majority of participants had not told anyone what they were doing on the two consecutive Saturdays In the Loop was held.

The structure of the two days is purposefully flexible. The aim is to provide information on HIV and the services available in the community and then focus on self-care and ways the participants might support themselves in their role.
One participant wrote the following after attending the workshop: “The program you put together was outstanding and in the past week or so I have called upon the information you provided at least twenty times a day. I have read a myriad of books on HIV but the experience of talking to people outweighs them all. Your calm and reassuring approach to all of us was a comfort beyond words.”

The next In the Loop will be run on Saturday 29 June and Saturday 6 July. For more information please contact: Guy Hussey at Living Positive Victoria on 9863 8733 and [Javascript required to view email information] or Judith Gorst at VAC at

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World AIDS Day 2012

At the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Mens Health Centre, They need a hand this World AIDS Day.

On Saturday 1st December 2012, they will be giving away 50,000 red ribbons to the people of Melbourne at our World AIDS Day Street Appeal. But they can’t polish off the job and raise awareness of HIV without a few extra sets of hands.

If yours have 2 hours to spare this World AIDS Day, point them in the direction of the VAC/GMHC email now!!!

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Bouncing back: silver medal-winning trampolinist stays upbeat about living with HIV

I came across this article on The Age website. Great to see such a positive (excuse the pun) article from a Newspaper that can sometimes get it wrong.

Remember if you have concerns or wanting more information about HIV, there are some great organisations, such as, VICAIDS/GMHC in Melbourne, Positive Living Centre in Melbourne, and ACON in Sydney, plus other state organisations, check out our directory page.

THE Olympic silver medallist Ji Wallace says finding out he was HIV positive was like “a bomb going off” in his head.

Wallace, the only Australian to have won a medal in gymnastics (silver on the trampoline in Sydney), said he walked around for weeks in a haze of shock and disbelief after learning a year ago he had contracted the virus from his partner at the time.

But Wallace says he has never looked back since that difficult couple of months he spent alone in Canada grappling with his new reality. Which is why he went public this week, inspired by an interview with Greg Louganis, the four-time Olympic diving gold medallist who revealed he was gay and HIV positive in an autobiography in 1995.

“I was in London at the Games and watched Piers Morgan interviewing [Louganis] and it was just such a normal interview and so positive,” Wallace said in Sydney after flying home from his role as an ambassador for the Federation of Gay Games.

“I felt like he had come a long way because when Greg came out it was a shock-horror story, quite negative, and it was really nice for him to sit there openly [this week] and talk about it. That night I had trouble sleeping so I wrote to Piers Morgan and said, ‘Thanks for treating him well … it’s a big issue and it always will be but you didn’t sensationalise anything.’ I wanted to say thanks and that I too was an Olympian living with HIV.”

The letter, which Wallace also sent to the Sydney Star Observer, a weekly newspaper for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, went viral on the internet and resulted in “literally thousands” of messages of support and gratitude for Wallace.

“It’s not a big deal to me. Everybody I needed to tell was very supportive of me, but it is a big deal to those people who find themselves discriminated against or bullied because of it,” he said.

“If one or two people or thousands of people get encouragement and courage to chase their dreams or live their lives honestly, if what I wrote makes a difference, then I have done the right thing.”

Wallace was openly but not publicly gay in Sydney when, as a long shot, he delighted a thunderous home crowd with a silver medal at trampolining’s Olympic debut. He made his sexuality known publicly four years later when a friend convinced him gay athletes should talk more about their sexuality. Life continued as normal, punctuated by a move to Canada to work with Cirque du Soleil, before his life changed last year.

“When a partner tells you they have HIV you’re super concerned about them, but then it was, ‘Hold on, if you have it does that mean I have it?”‘ Wallace said.

“Until I got tested there was that part of me that was ‘It’s a dream, it’s a dream’, unless it’s happening directly to you, you don’t really educate yourself about it … and then it seems like a bomb goes off in your head. And because I was overseas I wandered around like a zombie for a little while. It was quite some time before it really sunk in.”

Wallace moved back to Australia and began a program of antiretroviral drugs after being told he was “too healthy” to take part in trials for new drugs. He has his first big check-up next week but said by far the toughest challenge of the past year was telling his parents.

“Because they’re a generation and a half behind me, my parents are not within my community or current information system. I was really quite scared to tell them because I didn’t want them to think their son was going to die this horrible death,” he said.

Wallace took both parents to his doctor and watched, relieved, as “the fear drained out of their faces”.

“That’s another reason why I’m [speaking out],” he said. “I’m doing this to re-educate people about what it is and what it means to live with it.”

Ji Wallace ... was in a haze of shock.

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Journeys through love and loss

Road Movie may be about HIV and AIDS but it’s not a grim tale. Robin Usher meets the actor/producer bringing it to Melbourne.

QUEENSLAND actor Dirk Hoult is only 30 but he vividly remembers his childhood terrors brought on by the Grim Reaper campaign and other dour ads warning people against the dangers of AIDS.

”They terrified me,” he says during a break from rehearsing a classic one-man play from the early AIDS era, Road Movie, that will have its Australian premiere in the Midsumma Festival.

”It is a terrific play and its ideas about the fear of HIV are still relevant,” he says. ”It can raise awareness among young gays even if it is now a liveable disease like so many others.”

He stresses that the play is also of wider interest because of its literary merits. ”It’s a bloody good story that really rockets along.”

Road Movie by American Godfrey Hamilton made its debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995 where it won the fringe first award and the performer, Mark Pinkosh, won the inaugural stage award.

Hoult met the pair, who have been together for 30 years, in England in 2010 where they presented the play at Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival. He then joined a British tour of the production as the lighting and sound operator.

”I was very lucky to be able to get to know them so well. Godfrey was inspiring and he has allowed me to present his show in Melbourne,” he says.

The play tells the story of a hard-living New Yorker, Joel, who is travelling across the US to be reunited with his lover, Scott. On his odyssey he meets mothers remembering dead children, visits the Vietnam Memorial and recalls lovers and friends lost to AIDS.

”It’s not a dark play,” Hoult says. ”There are moments of beauty and side-splitting laughter.”

He plays three women and two men and deals with dialogue between characters by slight changes in his stance. In the last scene, on a Californian houseboat, Joel meets ”a hippie woman with piercings”, each representing people who have died from breast and ovarian cancers or AIDS.

”The themes of love and loss are always relevant,” Hoult says. Joel is an alcoholic at the beginning, but Scott reminds him that ”staying alive is the more interesting choice”.

He says the play represents a contemporary gay voice that people can respond to. ”[The movie] Brokeback Mountain was inspiring for the queer race, but it still ended badly.”

Hoult moved to Melbourne from Brisbane last year and taking on Road Movie is part of his search for a more rewarding career.

”This is a big challenge for me because I am taking it to the Adelaide Fringe in March,” he says. ”I have produced bits and pieces … but this is the biggest project by far.”

Acting is a hand-to-mouth profession for most young practitioners, and it was no different for Hoult, who graduated from the University of Southern Queensland in 2001.

But his break came with a role in The Kursk, a play about the doomed Russian submarine in which 118 sailors died.

The show toured nationally in 2009, including playing at the Clocktower Theatre in Moonee Ponds. ”Despite that, I still think of Road Movie as my Melbourne debut.

”As a result of the tour I was financially able to take on something big and that was when I decided to go to the UK.”

One of his last northern projects in Brisbane was the Queensland Music Festival production, Behind the Cane, about the shameful blackbirding industry in the 19th century when Pacific islanders were abducted to work in the northern canefields. ”It was a great success with a combined audience of about 7000 people over three days,” he says.

”It was a great way to finish up before heading south to see what opportunities Melbourne can provide.”

Road Movie is at the Gasworks Theatre, Albert Park, from tomorrow until Saturday. Book at or phone 9699 3253.

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Are you CONNECTed yet??

What is the CONNECT study?

The CONNECT study will explore: how gay men network and communicate today; the beliefs about what is acceptable regarding sexual practices and how these may relate to HIV risk and risk reduction; and will compare these patterns in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

The CONNECT study is the first of its kind in Australia as it uses a different form of  recruitment in which men who participate are also asked to refer their friends to complete the survey. The survey is completely anonymous – study referral coupons with unique numbers are used to refer friends and learn how men connect.

The findings from connect will help tailor future HIV interventions in our community.


The CONNECT study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia for a three-year period 2010-2012.


This study is being conducted by the Kirby Institute (formerly The National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research) in collaboration with The National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR), Curtin University, AIDS Councils of New South Wales (ACON), Victoria (VAC) and Western Australia (WAAC), and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

To find out more click here.

A worthy research study for gay men to be involved in!!!!

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