Matt Ranford

Matt Ranford

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 02:17

Kristina Mitsikas

Staff Representative

Kristina is the Coordinator of the Volunteer Program, joining WAAC in November 2016 after relocating to Perth from Melbourne with her Family. Kristina has recently received Coordinator Endorsement (intermediate) by Volunteering WA after completing a Master Class series. Kristina has also been invited to join the Volunteer Leadership Network for WA, taking on leadership and mentoring opportunities. 

Kristina has a Bachelor with Hons in Health Science majoring in Health Promotion and a Cert IV in Community Services. Kristina has over 10 years’ experience working in Health Promotion and Community Development within the Not for Profit and Local Government sector.

Monday, 04 December 2017 04:29

A Special Tribute from the Chair


The WA AIDS Council (Inc) was truly saddened to learn of the passing of Darren Vernede over the weekend. Darren died of a medical condition related to his HIV infection.

Darren was the “Openly HIV + Representative” on the WAAC Board of Governance, a position he held from 2010 – 2017. Darren served with distinction.

Darren’s story is an incredibly important one for WAAC and the community generally. Darren was a straight man and a hemophiliac. In 1984, at the age of 16, Darren acquired HIV through blood transfusion. Given only a few years to live, Darren learnt everything he could about HIV and set his mind to living life to the fullest. 

Following the advent of “HAART” treatments, Darren found love, married and had three wonderful children. With the grim reaper’s shadow fading behind him, Darren became an extraordinarily accomplished advocate in the HIV sector. 

Darren was also an executive coach and author of the book “Resilience-Bouncing Back from the Edge” which he published in 2014.

During our years together on the Board I came to value Darren’s exceptional judgment, kind-heartedness and encyclopedic knowledge of all things HIV. 

I will miss him. 

On behalf of the Board I offer my deepest condolences to Darren’s family and friends.

Asanka Gunasekera

Monday, 04 December 2017 03:49

Vale Darren Vernede

With great sadness, the WA AIDS Council acknowledges the passing of long time HIV Positive Representative to the Board, Darren Vernede.

Darren served on the Board since 2010, and was a long-time active contributor to the HIV response in Western Australia.

Darren served on the Haemophilia Foundation of WA for 12 years during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and represented WA in national forums. Darren was involved in several successful campaigns to gain better treatments for people living with HIV and Heamophilia.

More recently Darren worked as an executive coach and motivational speaker.

Darren is survived by his wife Puspa and three children. Our thoughts are with them at this time. 

Vale Darren. 

22nd November 2017


Despite living happy and healthy lives, the stigma of HIV continues. HIV positive people often need to hide their status from friends, family and workplaces, for fear of discrimination.

HIV Positive West Australians have combined with the Western Australian AIDS Council to combat the stigma surrounding the virus, in the lead up to World AIDS Day on December 1st.

Six local Perth residents are involved an advertising campaign that challenges the general public’s notion of HIV.

The campaign is called Sharing the Journey, and will appear across billboards, newspapers and social media across November and December, starting today, November 13.

Mark Reid, one of the six participants, said the virus has become a cultural and emotional issue for the positive community, now that effective treatment has diminished the medical concerns. “Those of us who know our HIV status and are on treatment, are just as healthy as the next person, but it is the stigma surrounding HIV that can be a real challenge.

 “By being involved in this campaign, we can humanise HIV, and hopefully take away some of the fear and myths surrounding it.

“It speaks volumes that some of my friends felt they couldn’t be part of this campaign, because of the possible consequences. In 2017, that sort of thing has been going on for far too long.”

The campaign follows on from a documentary, also called Sharing the Journey, released earlier this year, that describes the impact of HIV on a group of West Australians.   

Health Minister Roger Cook MLA, will officially launch World AIDS Awareness Week at the WA AIDS Council premises on November 27th at 10:30am. 


For media comment, please contact:

Mark Reid
HIV Positive Peer Educator
WA AIDS Council
Ph | 9482 0000
Email |


About World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year. It raises awareness across the world and in the community about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. It is a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

About the WA AIDS Council

The WA AIDS Council is a non-government organisation committed to the HIV response in Western Australia. Established in 1985, the Council leads the Western Australian community in the provision of a wide range of services in the prevention of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses, and the treatment and care of people living with HIV and AIDS.

About HIV in WA

HIV notifications in Western Australia remain steady, and are predominantly among men, with an equal number of homosexual and heterosexual men acquiring the virus. To the end of September 2017, WA had seen 51 new HIV notifications. Almost all infections in Western Australia are from sexual encounters. 

Watch Sharing the Journey here:



Friday, 17 November 2017 07:51

PrEP - Appointments Now Available

Appointments are now available for the WA Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Implementation Trial (PrEPIT-WA)!

You are able to choose from four clinics, which will be enrolling participants into the trial. We have included the details on these clinics below. Please note that Royal Perth Hospital Sexual Health Service (East Perth) is currently not open for enrolment, but has plans to join the trial before the end of the year.

M Clinic (08) 9227 0734
GP on Beaufort (08) 9262 8600
South Terrace Clinic (08) 9431 2149
Royal Perth Hospital Sexual Health Service (08) 9224 2178*

*Registrations Opening Soon

What is PrEP?

PrEP is a HIV prevention method where people who do not have HIV take a pill every day to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. 

What is PrEPIT-WA? 

PrEPIT-WA is a study run by the Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, funded by the Western Australian (WA) Government, in collaboration with a number of partners, including sexual health services and clinics. PrEPIT-WA aims to assess the impact of the rapid expansion in access to PrEP amongst those at highest risk of acquiring HIV, in particular, if it will lead to a drop in new HIV infections. 

The study will see up to 2,000 people at high risk of acquiring HIV enrolled in the study as efficiently as possible. 


Eligibility for PrEPIT-WA is based on the ASHM HIV PrEP clinical guidelines and these are described here.
For more info on the study go to: 


Tuesday, 31 October 2017 05:07

NAPWHA's Advocacy Agenda for Ageing

NAPWHA is developing an advocacy agenda for HIV and ageing in recognition of the fact that more than 50% of the people with HIV in Australia will soon be over the age of 50. 

  • The Government is developing an LGBTI Action Plan as part of a new Aged Care Diversity Framework. NAPWHA acknowledges that a number of people living with HIV are also part of the LGBTI communities and is inviting people to contribute to the survey. We are keen to ensure the voices of older people living with HIV are heard in this consultation.
  • This survey will inform the Government about the particular needs of LGBTI communities in Australia, including those with HIV. The Aged Care Sector Committee Diversity Sub-Group will also develop action plans for: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD backgrounds).
  • The LGBTI Health Alliance is holding in-person consultations across Australia and conducting an online survey to ensure your experiences and wisdom are included. 
  • Contact for more information

Ways to get involved:

1.    Click here to participate in the online survey.

2.    Download a print copy of the survey

3.    Download the plain language version of the survey

In-person consultations

1.    Register your interest in one of our in-person consultations

For providers

1.    Download a print copy of the survey



Friday, 13 October 2017 07:37

Shame, Sex and Hiding

As men, we often learn to hide our emotions. For example, we all know the saying “boys don’t cry”. I can remember on one occasion growing up being happy and dancing to music on the radio. I was told to stop dancing because men don’t dance!  We don’t cry, we don’t express happiness, we don’t feel. One of the consequences of this is we learn to hide our emotions and become emotionally illiterate. We lose the emotional language to name what we are feeling.

Often all a man is left with, is his anger. When a man experiences fear, he becomes angry because anger is safer than fear. When a man experiences uncertainty, he becomes angry because the anger provides certainty.

Then there is the stereotypical view that gay men are more emotionally aware and sensitive.  Yet a man who is emotionally aware however he identifies sexually learns the need to hide his emotions.

Hiding our emotions not only affects us socially, it also impacts on us sexually. The sexual act is not just a physical act, it is also an act of the emotions. A limited emotional range impacts on the range of emotions we bring to our sexual activity, foreplay and orgasms.  Ecstasy requires an emotional range when it is not taken in pill form.

For many men, it is not just our emotions we learn to hide it is also our sexuality. Gay men, men who are bi, men who do not identify with any category but enjoy occasional male to male sex all learn to hide our sexuality to some degree or other.

The consequence is that many men grow up hiding. Hiding behind a construct of masculinity we hope is acceptable to our circle of friends, our families and our wider social network but all the time being anxious in case who we really are and what we really feel leaks through.

What has all this got to do with shame?

Shame is the sense that we are fundamentally flawed, that there is something wrong with us.  Shame grows behind the facades we present to those around us. Often because we have lost our emotional language we cannot name our shame. We just have a sense that we are not right. That we could be better.

This sense of shame, even though we cannot name it doesn’t go away. Very often shame gets acted out in our behaviours. For example, how much of our alcohol consumption is because we enjoy a relaxing drink or two or because we are just wanting to drink to take the edge of “that feeling”? How much of our drug use is an attempt to make us feel happy because we are feeling unhappy, discontent and something is wrong?

The bitchy Queen who has the cutting comment and can put everyone down or in their place, how much of that behaviour is driven by an insecurity of not being enough?

Shame is toxic, it is dangerous for our mental health and well-being. That sense, “there is something wrong with me”, leaves us feeling isolated and alone. Unless shame is addressed in our lives it can be like a parasite, it feeds on our sense of ourselves and we don’t realize it is hiding in us.

One of the challenges for members of the LGBTQI community with the current SSM debate is not to go “into hiding”. With the negativity that is being expressed there is the risk of falling back into old habits of hiding. Hiding can re-activate any sense of shame that is lying dormant and “hiding” in our lives because we have not recognised it. 

Shame can be challenging but not impossible to deal with. We all have a responsibility towards each other. When our friends are going into hiding, we need to be there for them.  We need to remind each other we are all imperfectly perfect. Often we want to be perfect because we feel that will make up for all the put downs and all the shame we experienced growing up. We will never be perfect. There is no such thing as perfection but there is the beauty of being imperfectly perfect, or as Leonard Cohen expressed it “the crack in everything, that lets the light in”

If you feel you are beginning to hide, or you are fed up with that sense that something is wrong with you, the AIDS Council has counsellors who can assist you work through the sense of shame and help you re-discover the uniqueness of yourself.


David Kernohan

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 02:44

David Kernohan

Chief Executive Officer

David joined the Council in September 2017 from the Mental Health Law Centre, where he had been CEO for over two years. He has extensive experience in the not for profit sector, with a strong background in mental health, and brings a diverse community based perspective with him.

By David Kernohan, WA AIDS Council CEO

I woke this morning, to the headline that SSM forms had been burnt in Arnhem Land. By this evening, those headlines had become “same sex marriage: Postal survey’s higher-than-expected turnout secures legitimacy”. But does it? What about the forms that have been burnt in Arnhem Land? What of the other postal survey forms I see, lying sodden in the street, limp, impotent in that the voice of their intended recipient will never be heard.

One of the principles of democracy is respect for and an acknowledgement of the importance of the voice of the people. The importance of this principle is usually taken so seriously that when the government seeks to know the views of the people, care is taken to ensure open and transparent processes are in place. People must have their names ticked off a register, their votes and views are confidential and have the dignity of a secure ballot process.

Although the current survey masquerades as an opportunity for people to have their say, it provides none of the safe guards that are usually associated with gauging the voice of the people. In a normal referendum, ballot papers would not be burned. This lack of safe guards affects both the “Yes” and the “No” campaigns. 

Whatever the outcome in November, it is open for either side to argue against the result because of the lack of proper processes to ensure the voice of the community is heard in a transparent process.

This survey was born of appeasement. Centrist politicians trying to appease their right flank. But if history teaches us anything, it is that appeasement does not work. People end up dissatisfied and results are often contested resulting in further discord and alienation.

Because the SSM survey is an attempt at appeasement and absent proper processes that are usually associated with hearing the voice of the people, there is a very real possibility the result in November will not bring the matter to a close. There is a very real possibility the results will be contested and High Court challenges mounted. 

What does this mean for members of the LGBTQI community? It means we must be prepared for a long journey. It means we must pace ourselves and maintain our resilience and reserves for the long haul. It means organisations like the WA AIDS Council, must be properly resourced to lead community with support and strength.

In Greek mythology there is the story of Pandora’s box. When the box was opened all sorts of evils and problems were let out and all that remained was hope. As individuals, we all need hope. Hope is the quality that builds resilience and an ability to keep persevering.

But hope alone, is not a quality upon which to build good government policy. I would call upon Government, having opened Pandora’s box with this survey and having unleashed the dogs of animosity, abuse and division against the LGBTQI community, to give serious consideration to rebuilding, engaging and healing our community post November 2017. 

If you are feeling affected by the postal survey, please click here.

The marriage equality debate continues to flood our media and social media pages. Unfortunately, it is often the extreme views and actions that get the publicity leaving us feeling awash in a sea of vitriol and extremism. While the struggle for marriage equality may be the current issue, those of us of a certain age may remember a different struggle of the early 1970’s.

In 1974, an Honoury Royal Commission was held in Perth as to whether homosexuality should be legalised. As a young teenager who was uncertain of his sexuality, I remember that period well. My father, an Irish fundamentalist Baptist Minister held the same opinions as Margaret Court. He vehemently disapproved of the legalisation of homosexuality and spoke at the Royal Commission, who politely listened and fortunately disagreed with his extreme views. My father was asked to speak on the 7:30 Report to explain his bigotry on television – a momentous occasion for the family given that he disagreed with television being in the house. He would regularly preach on how homosexuals would go to hell, unless they were healed and became straight. He also believed that if homosexuality was legalised the fabric of society would crumble. It wasn’t just Christmas or Easter we would lose, Western civilisation as we knew it in the seventies in Perth would crumble. 

It is easy to smile now in hindsight. Yet those months in 1974 were no laughing matter as anger and hatred spewed across the media in the name of religion and civilised society and the right for free expression of sexuality.

For me, there is a sense of déjà vu. The debate relates now to marriage rather than the legalisation of homosexuality yet many of the arguments carry a similar tone.  So what do the 70’s teach us in 2017?

They teach us that society will not crumble or disintegrate. In the 70’s homosexuality was legalised and society continued to develop and grow. When marriage equality is granted, society will continue. Society is not destroyed by honest debate or by the expression of love. Society is torn apart by extremism, by factionalism and by making particular groups in society scapegoats for what we fear. 

Extreme views either for or against any argument are often based on fear and a sense of inferiority and uncertainty. We convince ourselves our views are correct by the loudness of our arguments.  When we are confident of who we are and of our beliefs we do not need to adopt extreme views.

Finally, extremists are rarely changed by rational arguments. I learnt early on, my father, would never change his views because that would mean acknowledging he may be wrong. Extremists often have a world view based on fear and the need to be right.

How do we apply these lessons to the current time?

Firstly, we can have hope. It seemed unlikely in 1974 homosexuality would be legalised. It was and LGBTI+ people finally had a freedom they didn’t have before. Society did not implode. God took a remarkable dis-interest in the legalisation of homosexuality. God did not return to the earth to punish the evil as my father and many religious leaders predicted. Whatever the outcome of the survey, life will continue and I suspect God will continue to take a remarkable disinterest when LGBTI+ people do have the right to marry.

Secondly, our hope inspires us to work confidently for change. Confident of who we are, we can leave the extremism to those who are more insecure and fearful. We can work with quiet confidence, in a respectful way that reflects our own dignity and the inherent dignity of all people.

Thirdly, when we feel overwhelmed with the noise of extremism, we can allow ourselves to relax understanding the fear and inferiority that lies behind such views and concentrate on looking after ourselves and our own health and mental well-being.

Next week I will address our mental well-being in more detail.

WA AIDS Council is providing free counselling support for people who would like additional support during the marriage equality debate. Additional face-to-face, telephone and online counselling is available throughout the survey process. Call 1800 671 130 or visit for more information.

David Kernohan


Our Mission

To minimise the impact and further transmission of HIV, other blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. To reduce social, legal and policy barriers which prevent access to health information and effective support and prevention services.