New NAPWHA representative continues to fight HIV stigma


Western Australia has a new representative for the National Association of People Living With HIV/AIDS (NAPWHA). Ryan Oliver has taken over from the previous representative*, while Paul Baines has been re-elected for a second year long term.

Oliver told OUTinPerth he decided to stand for the role because he wanted to be proactive in reducing the level of stigma around HIV.

“I want to deal with the stigma, and get more awareness out there about HIV.” The new health advocate said.

Oliver said he had met younger gay guys whose lack of knowledge about the reality of HIV had left him “gob smacked” and improving the level of education about safe sex and PrEP treatment options was one of his goals.

Paul Baines said the lack of progress on the introduction of PrEP treatment is one of the big topics that community needs to address.

“There’s a wealth of history in using this medication, but we’ve still got a government that isn’t moving quick enough. We’re still facing infections every week because we’re not putting people on PrEP.” Baines said.

The medication that effectively stops the spread of HIV has been approved in Canada, the USA and France, but despite several trials being run in Australia – it’s not widely available. A situation that Baines describes as “ludicrous”.

As none of the trials have been held in Western Australia the NAPWHA representatives felt that this has led to many people in the local community having a low level of awareness of the preventative medication.

At the end of his first year as a representative of people living with HIV Baines said he has learned a lot.

“I think what I’ve learnt is, the community really needs a voice, and sometimes we struggle to know what that voice is.” Baines said. “We still don’t clearly know what we want.”

One way the duo have proposed to improve this is by increasing the number of community forums that are held each year. After the most recent forum a working group has been set up to focus on what the specific needs of people in WA are.

Ageing and Aged Care for HIV positive people, reducing stigma and discrimination and improving support for people living with HIV are some of the key issues that were raised at the recent forum.

Graeme Watson

*Update: 23-08-16 The name of the previous representative was removed at their request. 

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