Meet five community champions on World AIDS Day

The National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and Gilead Sciences Australia have announced the five Australians named ‘2023 Community Champions’ for their outstanding contribution to HIV care, community engagement and prevention.

Now in its third year, the Community Champions program was created by NAPWHA and Gilead, to recognise and celebrate the unsung heroes of the Australian HIV response.

This includes people who work in healthcare, support services, community engagement and advocacy, as well as the countless allies, family members and advocates helping to better provide care and support, educate others on HIV and break down stigma.

This year for the first time, five categories were introduced to uncover the 2023 Community Champions recognising the breadth and diversity within HIV communities.

These categories were Families Champion, Rural and Regional Communities Champion, Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities Champion, First Nations Communities Champion, and Long-term Survivors Champion.

Nominations for the Community Champions program each year come from peers and members of the community. The Community Advisory Council judging panel were then tasked with selecting just one individual per category among 19 worthy nominees.

The five champions for 2023 are Vikas Parwani, Senior Solicitor at the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre who has been named the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities Champion.

Judith Frecker, Clinical Nurse Consultant at the Royal Melbourne Hospital is the Families Champion, while Morgan Dempsey, Senior Indigenous Health Worker at Cairns Sexual Health Service is the First Nations Communities Champion.

Geoff Harrison the founder of Lismore Lads, is the Long-term Survivors Champion, and Andrew Buggie, Clinical Nurse Consultant at Lismore Sexual Health Service has been named the Rural and Regional Communities Champion.

NAPWHA Executive Director Aaron Cogle said the recognition highlighted those who passionately devote their time and energy to supporting people living with HIV.

“There are countless people across our community who passionately devote their time and energy to support people living with HIV and to help prevent it.

“Whether that is by finding new ways to connect people with a supportive community, creating safe spaces for people to access information and care, or advocating for community needs.

“Community Champions is a heart-warming peer recognition program that allows us the chance to pause from our daily advocacy, engagement and support efforts, to reflect and recognise the incredible work of our colleagues, healthcare workers, families and friends, allies and advocates,” Cogle said.

“This year, we made the decision to create specific Champion categories to reflect the range and diversity within HIV communities and so that we could uncover those champions who might typically fly under the radar.

“We were thrilled to receive so many inspiring nominations across these five new categories and were blown away by the impact of the contributions made by this year’s recipients. Notably, their continuous advocacy, often over the course of a lifetime, for better, safer, more personalised care and support for all people living with HIV,” Cogle added.

For more than 35 years, Gilead has worked together with healthcare professionals, academia, community organisations and inspirational advocates to support better outcomes for people living with HIV.

Commenting on this year’s program, Jaime McCoy, General Manager, Gilead Sciences Australia and New Zealand, said it was a honour to

“We’re honoured to have partnered with NAPWHA on the Community Champions program for the third year running. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the incredible unsung heroes of the HIV response but importantly it is also a platform to engage and educate more people about HIV in Australia in 2023, to tackle the continued stigma and misinformation that impacts the quality of life of the 29,000 people living with HIV today.

“We want more Australians to understand that 40 years of scientific innovation, community partnership and public health advocacy and Government bipartisanship has helped transform HIV from an inevitably fatal diagnosis to one that can be prevented and managed.”

“Our work as a sector however is not done. At Gilead, we will continue to support community-led programs, research and healthcare working towards health equity for all people impacted by HIV. We believe that together, we can end the epidemic for everyone, everywhere and we are delighted to recognise remarkable individuals like the 2023 Community Champions.” McCoy added.

Hear stories from each of the champions at the NAPWHA website

OIP Staff


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