Nov
30
2021

World AIDS Day 2021

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World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year. The occasion aims to encourage Australians to educate themselves and others about HIV; take action to reduce the transmission of HIV, and to support people living with HIV to freely live without stigma and discrimination.
 
JOY Volunteer Archivist Chris Furneaux shared with us how the history of World AIDS Day has evolved and why the occasion marks a turning point for JOY in the 1990s.
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The AIDS crisis hit Australia in Oct 1982, and the first Australian death from AIDS occurred in Melbourne in July 1983. There was public hysteria and vilification. We all knew guys who were suddenly sick…then gone! We attended funerals on a monthly or even weekly basis. Our ranks were severely depleted. Eventually medication improved and patients were living longer, but still dying too young. Lots of them were lying alone in sick beds at Fairfield (Infectious Disease Hospital) and The Alfred Hospital = quite disconnected from their friends, lovers, family and communities.
 
At that time, major daily newspapers only carried scandalous gay stories, and gay matters weren’t handled sensitively. And we gay people obtained our gay news via weekly street newspapers or monthly magazines; luckily there was an active pub & club social scene which provided safe meet and mingle venues which supported us,
 
Remember that the internet was still in its infancy; mobile phones were the size of house bricks; there was no SMS, Facebook, Twitter or Grindr.
 
For those in hospital or still coming to terms with their sexuality or gender, or wanting to feel part of the gay community, isolation was a frightening possibility.
 
John Oliver (JOY Member #1) was aware of some gay men in hospital and he thought that it would be quite therapeutic to make contact with them in their isolation through a private, safe and intimate medium – Was radio the answer? John thought so.
 
After some delicate negotiations with an existing local community radio station, John was able to secure 2 hours of broadcast time on World AIDS Day 1992. However this just confirmed that our community needed its own voice. Further enthusiasm and support was revealed at Midsumma Carnival 1993. JOY was poised to fill that need. We had a purpose.