Living Well With HIV – Interview with Kim Brooklyn

Kim Brooklyn is the new Positive Services Manager for the WA AIDS Council and has now been in the position for a about year. Given that the WA AIDS Council is currently conducting an independent review of HIV Positive Services I thought it was timely to interview Kim and get a sense of her and the direction of services for people with HIV.

What is it that attracted you to the area of HIV/AIDS?
I wasn’t necessarily attracted to the area so much as it is something that has been part of my life for what seems like forever. I have always had people in my life from the community, from when I was very small and had a gay “grandma” (well that was what we called him) to now. Back in the early days of the epidemic some of the people who were close to me acquired HIV, and one person in particular who was very special to me passed away from AIDS related illnesses.

What are some of your skills and experience that your bring to this position?
I hold a Masters degree in Psychology, and I have a long history of working in the not for profit, private and government sectors – around 32 years. Some of the areas I have worked in include mental health, child protection, community welfare services, Indigenous communities/people throughout Australia, academia, counselling, private practice, and organisational development. For the last 9 years I have been a manager and a private consultant.

After almost a year has there been anything that has surprised you?
Not really, though I am not that easily surprised these days. I remain disappointed at the amount of discrimination and stigma that is still within the broader community about same sex attracted couples, but then I am equally disappointed and saddened at the amount of assumptions and negative perspectives demonstrated in some parts of all communities towards people living with HIV.

Why do you believe an independent review is warranted now?
It is a great opportunity to review how the service is delivered, what administrative and organisational supports need to improve and how this might be done, and also how we can ensure that the services we provide are relevant to ALL people living with HIV – and what I mean by that is that people living with HIV come from all walks of life – homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual, transsexual, old, young, people from diverse cultural backgrounds, fully employed people, people on disability pensions, some who need lots of support and some who need very little – and we have a responsibility to ensure that what we do meets their current needs and also their needs into the future.

What outcomes would you like to see come from the review?
At the end of the day it is always about improving the quality and sustainability of a service for me. I have a really deep commitment to ensure that whatever I am involved in reaches for and attains Best Practice standards – in a sense it’s about ensuring that what we do meets the needs of positive people, it demonstrates a ‘good bang for the buck’ or that tax payers are provided with value for their money; it is sustainable and not going to fold because of poor attendance or high risk; and there is a clearly defined purpose to everything undertaken or provided.

Do you have a particular vision of where you would like to see Positive Services in the next 0-5years?
Yes I do. I am a very strong believer in teaching people to fish – or providing people with an opportunity to learn and to develop skills so that they enjoy their life more and are happy in the knowledge that they achieved goals that were relevant to them.

Is there a funny moment you would like share?
Every conversation I have with you Cipri has its funny moments! Sure, there are always funny moments when you work with people. I can only tell you about my less than brilliant skills with my mobile phone that have given myself and other people hours of fun though!

How do you relax from a stressful day?
I go home, grab a coffee, sit outside and just ‘be’. If it has been a particularly rough day I go home grab the dog and go to the beach – the dog is always up for a run, and the beach is one of my most favourite places to be so he and I both enjoy ourselves!

Is there a key message you would like to communicate to people with HIV?
A key message? Well I guess my message would be that we are striving towards delivering the highest quality service we can to PLHIV, their families and others. The other message is that I hope that with the change we are going through here at WAAC you still feel welcome and that you still feel as though you can access our services, as that is what we are here for.

I would like to thank Kim for her openness in sharing with us some of her thoughts in this area. Over time many people with HIV will have opportunity to work with Kim. My sense is that regardless whether Kim is working at WA AIDS Council or not, Kim’s compassion would be a natural ally to people with HIV.

Cipri Martinez