HIV in Australia: taking personal action

Susan Brennan, World YWCA President

Contributor: Susan Brennan

The power of the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action lies in its call to individual and collective action. We are all personally committed to challenge ourselves and others to respond to HIV and AIDS.It’s up to every one of us to listen, to learn, to advocate and to make change happen every single dayat home, at work and in our communities.

For me, this has meant forging a special friendship with an HIV positive teenager who challenges stereotypes about HIV on a daily basis. She has faced discrimination from schools and from doctors demonstrating how hidden HIV is in our community. She made me realise HIV is an issue for women in Australia, too. From her, I learnt to stop asking how someone “got HIV”. Now, whenever I speak about the priorities of the YWCA, I talk about the vulnerability of young women to HIV and the influence young women have in halting its spread.

I have supported the activities of the leading organisation for HIV-positive women in Australia by attending their picnics in public parks and a powerful photographic exhibition by positive women. The young men and women in my family now expect birthday gifts such as t-shirts, stationery and other literature raising awareness of HIV. My local YWCA partnered with a condom manufacturer to distribute a new brand of condoms innovatively marketed to women, which I distribute to my friends and familyeven to my fellow World YWCA Board members.

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