This World AIDS Day, AIVL is honouring the work of all those who came before us.
People who inject drugs remain among the most highly stigmatised groups in Australia and across the world. HIV infection rates among people who inject drugs in Australia are among the lowest in the western world. This is the legacy of Australia’s peer-based organisations who have worked tirelessly for decades, and in the face of adversity, to reduce drug-related harm and reduce the spread of Blood Borne Virus among drug users.
Nevertheless, HIV/AIDS is still there and remains an enemy of our community. We can never be complacent in the ongoing fight against HIV. There is no better demonstration of the value of peer-based drug user organisations than the steady reduction of HIV prevalence among Australians who have injected drugs in the decades since the early 1980s.
We know there are volumes of reliable research that indicate that peer-based organisations, and indeed the information disbursed by peer-based organisations, is much more likely to be trusted and used by the community of people who use drugs. While we know that health equity continues to be a major issue for our community, AIVL and its member organisations are in a unique position to support the members of our community who are hardest to reach. We know the fight isn’t over.
In August 2021, I started as CEO of AIVL. AIVL has also welcomed a new generation of policy and project staff. Across our organisation, we will use this year’s World AIDS Day to honour the work of those in peer-based drug user organisations who came before us.
They include pioneers from the AIVL network who stood up in the NSW parliament in the 1990s and bravely talked about their own injecting drug use, and those who fought for Australia’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, only to be harshly vilified in the media.
They include people who defied the law to provide sterile injecting equipment to users in the early 1980s. The people who bravely shared their personal stories in the face of significant stigma, discrimination and adversity to let other others who use and inject drugs know they were valued, not alone, and entitled to the same health and human rights as everyone else. They are the people whose contributions have saved countless lives.
AIVL and its network will continue with this important fight and we will always remember those who fought before us.
AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.
Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email firstname.lastname@example.org