The theme for this year’s WORLD AIDS Day is ‘getting to Zero, which mean zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination . Zero AIDS related Deaths’. Australia has come a long way since the first World AIDS Day in 1988 and the first AIDS case came to its shores in 1982.
Australia’s response to HIV and AIDS has been one of the most successful in the world. It is a remarkable part of Australia’s history where both sides of government, led by at-risk communities, changed social attitudes and implemented public health campaigns that saved thousands of lives.
These campaigns emerged from the grassroots, rather than from the top-down, and spoke directly to those most at risk. The focus was on prevention at a time when a positive diagnosis was a death sentence. It would be over a decade before developments in drug therapy finally started to make a real impact on the ferocity of the disease.
The main aims of World AIDS Day are to educate and remind us that HIV is very present and serious health hazard, particularly in less affluent countries; to raise awareness and understanding, to counteract prejudice and to raise funds.
From an HIV infection rate of 2,400 in 1987 the Australian rate has been steady at 1,000 a year for the last ten years however there is now a slight increase.
The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt of which the Museum holds 97 were initially started as a memorial. They have now become a valuable resource for promoting a community dialogue about AIDS. The quilt are an evocative record of those who died of AIDS and a DVD of the 97 Quilt images have been lent to NSW Health and City of Sydney to display on 1st December 2012 .
The quilt above is also on display in the Museum’s display HIV and AIDS 30 years on: the Australian Story.