Clinical Services recently offered PLHIV a new and innovative experience interacting with horses and nature.
Mel from Horse Horizons and her colleague Vicky facilitated the workshop, offering their expert guidance and seemingly endless equine wisdom. Conversations were peppered with earthy humour and abundant smiles to warm up the grey skies and keep the rain at bay.
We learnt that horses are prey animals and have a finely honed ability to sense changes in the environment and people’s emotions. They notice nuances in expression and body language and respond accordingly, giving valuable feedback about how we are communicating.
They are straightforward and not capable of being duplicitous; what they show on the outside matches how they feel on the inside. Vicky explained that horses are sensitive to duplicity in humans. If there is a mismatch in what we humans feel and the way we express ourselves, horses will sense this, and feel less able to trust or move closer. This mirroring effect invites us to be more congruent with how we feel and what we communicate. This strengthens our attunement with the horse and with ourselves.
Horses teach us other lessons through their presence alone. Like many of our beloved furry friends, they don’t judge us on our history, appearance or dress sense. They simply let us be.
We explored our boundaries, how to respect our own and those of others. Horses let us know if they need space; they will move away. We too, can show them when they have crossed our boundary, by firmly yet non-aggressively nudging them away. We may also expand or soften our boundaries, inviting the horses with our outstretched palms to come closer.
All up this was a truly moving experience, topped off with a yummy lunch and homemade scones with jam and cream. Thanks to Mel’s Mum, we were extremely well fed and left with our bellies as full as our hearts.
What the attendees had to say…
'The whole experience of being with horses was extremely good for body and soul'
'Amazing day with animals, Mother Nature and fantastic people. Very safe space to let your emotions go free’
‘Being with horses made me aware of my personal boundaries, and helped me to assert them more’.
‘My first experience with horses…it was a beautiful space to connect, beautiful set up and comforting energy'…
'What a wonderfully uplifting experience, I can't speak highly enough of it. I would encourage anyone who was too ‘in their heads’ or a little stressed to give it a go’…
‘The experience was deeply moving and I felt I was able to be myself and be seen’
The WA AIDS Council once again sponsored the Miss Africa Perth event for 2017, which was held on Saturday 27th May.
Miss Africa Perth is an event that showcases African heritage including culture, fashion, traditions, music and art. It provides a snapshot of cultural and social identities and serves the purpose of strengthening community cohesiveness and promoting cultural understanding. This event empowers young African women to become role models for their communities.
The WA AIDS Council have sponsored this event since 2015 and work to empower African community leaders to take ownership of HIV. As part of the sponsorship this year, our Training and Development Coordinator, Reena D'Souza, provided HIV education to the Miss Africa contestants on Saturday 20th May, each of them ambassadors for youth and culture in their communities. WAAC also offers the contestants ongoing support for HIV education in their communities and provides future opportunities for them to be involved in HIV education initiatives.
For more info go to https://www.facebook.com/Miss-Africa-Perth-175980242461800/
The Aboriginal Sexual Health (ASH) Forum presented 'Yarning our way' on the 3rd & 4th May. There was a strong focus on youth this year, with participants learning about new resources and hearing from exciting guest speakers about sexual and gender diversity, resilience, overcoming shame, body image, and current STI/BBV issues for Aboriginal communities. The WA AIDS Council Health Promotion team attended the event, and Senior Health Promotion Officer Carley Robbins reflected on the experience below:
"WOW! The Aboriginal Sexual Health Forum 2017 was incredible, with two days packed with amazing, diverse speakers from all over Western Australia. It was set on the mighty Derbarl Yerrigan at Burswood on Swan, with SHQ (Sexual Health Quarters) hosting the forum. They did an excellent job, with lots of time for discussion and activities which was great! I learned so much in just two days - some of the highlights for me included hearing speakers 'talk real' about their work on the ground, sharing experiences of what worked and what didn’t work, which was extremely valuable. One of the key messages I took away from all the presenters was to make sexual health messaging literal and easy to understand, and that humour is always a great way to engage. Presenters also highlighted the importance of getting involved with engaging young people and family members in sports and fun activities as a way of being there for when they have questions about sexual health. I left the forum feeling truly inspired and excited to start implementing what I learned in my day to day work. Thanks so much to all the presenters and SHQ for organising the event, it was another amazing year!"
The Western Australian AIDS Council (WAAC), established in 1985, leads the Western Australian community in the provision of a wide range of services with the two primary objectives of prevention and education of people at risk of acquiring HIV, and the provision of care and support to people living with HIV. It is a community based, not-for-profit organisation, with a focus on exceptional service delivery.
WAAC’s Board seeks to appoint a CEO to provide strategic leadership for the organisation during a period of considerable change in the global response to HIV prevention and treatment. With diverse responsibilities across issues such as organisational culture, policy development, funding and service delivery, this position is both strategic and operational by nature. The CEO will focus the organisation on constantly reviewing and developing public and private sector relationships to consolidate its capacity to make a real difference.
We seek an individual who has initiative, advanced leadership capabilities and commercial aptitude for this key role. Intended applicants are likely to have formal qualifications in a health/community services related discipline, together with a proven record of success at a senior executive level. An attractive remuneration package is offered.
Application Packs and additional information for this position can be obtained by emailing email@example.com or by calling Willie Rowe at the Western Australian AIDS Council
on 08 9482 0000. Applications close June 2 2017.
Last week the WA AIDS Council Manager, Health Promotion Matt Creamer, was invited to speak to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine. We took this opportunity to argue that investment in harm reduction programs is currently ignored in favour of the investment in supply and demand reduction (law enforcement). We advocated for an evidence based response that acknowledges that methamphetamine related harms are most experienced by gay men, injecting drug users and Aboriginal populations, and that investment should be such that responses are community led. Matt concluded by saying that the language and rhetoric around methamphetamine use was unhelpful and discouraged people from seeking assistance. You can read his speech below…
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine
3 May 2017
Good afternoon Committee Members and welcome to Western Australia.
My name is Matt Creamer, and I am the Manager of Health Promotion at the Western Australian AIDS Council.
I’d like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the lands of the Wadjuk Noongar people, who are the natural guardians of this beautiful place. I pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging.
I am extremely honoured to have been invited to speak today – my first time in front of such a Committee – and we are very grateful for the opportunity to expand on the points raised in our submission of 9 June 2015.
I would like first to tell you a little about our organisation, the work we do and the way we do it, to give further context to our submission.
The WA AIDS Council is a professional health promotion agency in sexual health and blood-borne viruses, and for more than 30 years, we have provided
- Support and care services
- Health promotion, community development, education (including peer education) and prevention services
- Capacity building and professional support for individuals, communities and sector organisations; and
- Policy advice and advocacy at a community, state and national level.
Of all the expertise and experience we have developed as an organization over three decades, there are some that are very particular to us. These include:
- Community engagement and community capacity building using a peer approach
- Long-term engagement with vulnerable communities; and
- A deep knowledge of personal and social issues connected with sexual health and blood-borne viruses, and the behavioural and medical science associated with them.
The relevant core principles that underpin our work are:
- An adherence to the principles of harm reduction;
- Active participation of affected individuals and communities including peer education and community ownership to increase their influence over the determinants of their health; and
- An adherence to the principles of multiculturalism and substantive equality.
Perhaps most relevant to this Inquiry, the WA AIDS Council has operated a Needle and Syringe Exchange Program more than 28 years, supplying around two million pieces of sterile injecting equipment annually to injecting drug users in Western Australia.
Around 50% of our clients regularly report methamphetamine as the last drug they injected, and many are long term clients.
Importantly, the nature of our exchange service means that used injecting equipment is returned to us to be destroyed, rather than discarded; we have a 94 per cent exchange rate resulting in improved public health and community health outcomes.
Other services delivered by us to marginalized and vulnerable individuals include one-on-one counselling, care and support with individual clients who report problematic methamphetamine use.
As you will have already have heard today from Jill Rundle and Ethan James from WANADA, and read within the 2015 submission from the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug User League) the three pillars of demand, supply and harm reduction are not currently equally distributed.
Each is important, but – perhaps unsurprisingly given our experience and credentials – today I seek to reinforce the importance of a harm reduction framework in the response to crystal methamphetamine use in Australia.
The Penington Institute’s written submission has previously informed this Inquiry that in 2009-2010, around two thirds of the total drug-related funds were expended on law enforcement, while only 2.2 per cent were spent on harm reduction initiatives.
We would note three critical points for consideration when determining a harm-reduction response to addressing community’s needs while delivering lasting outcomes.
Firstly, the need for an evidence-based response to address the harms related to methamphetamine use.
You have suggested today the consensus is that methamphetamine use has increased. The evidence available to us does not support that assertion. Rather, the data tells us that the way that methamphetamine is consumed has changed – from a powder and base form to the crystalline form of methamphetamine that is easily smoked and injected. The harms associated with crystalline methamphetamines are more serious and hence more visible, but the amount of methamphetamine being consumed has not changed significantly.
Similarly, the evidence does not support that larger numbers of people are using methamphetamine; the numbers of methamphetamine users has remained stable over time.
Further, and contrary to what you have heard from other submissions today about methamphetamine being a drug that does not discriminate, current evidence shows that there is higher usage amongst specific sub populations, these being:
- Injecting drug users, who are significantly more at risk of the acquisition of HIV and other blood borne viruses,
- Men who have sex with men, who use methamphetamine at rates about 4 and a half times the general population; and who often use methamphetamine as a precursor to sexual behavior, heightening their risk of the acquisition of HIV. This increases again for men who have sex with men who are also living with HIV; and
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have high rates of drug and alcohol use generally, but often limited access to culturally secure health promotion initiatives and healthcare options, and who have increasing rates of injecting drug use, particularly in rural and remote areas.
There is a need to urgently identify and address the needs of these sub-populations, and to fund the expansion of evidence-based interventions that address methamphetamine related harms such as the spread of blood borne viruses, poor mental health and dependence. Rural and remote populations should not be excluded from such responses.
Assuming the stance that methamphetamine use is spread evenly across the broad Australian societal landscape risks failing to adequately and appropriately fund interventions in the places – and with the people – that they are most needed.
It is perhaps worth reiterating here that the majority of methamphetamine users are in control of their consumption.
Secondly, a whole of community approach is required.
Our experience as an AIDS Council has taught us that the most successful interventions are a combination of those aimed at an individual, family and community level.
Non-Government organisations with their experience developing harm-reduction programs, and peer-based delivery service models, and with their considerable understanding of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society, must be included in the response to methamphetamine use.
Further, connections must be supported across sectors, ensuring linkages between non-Government Organisations, the Public Sector, mental health and community welfare services, justice and emergency services, and within the broader community settings in which methamphetamine may be prevalent.
And finally today, we consider the language and rhetoric around methamphetamine use likely to negatively impact the chances of methamphetamine users seeking appropriate support and adequate health care.
Our experience shows that negative media attention on similar and related health issues such as HIV, Hepatitis or other chronic health conditions impedes health promotion activities, prevention initiatives, and access to suitable health care and treatment options.
Failure to change the language, perception and depiction of methamphetamine use is likely to result in people accessing healthcare and support services only in times of crisis.
The importance of thinking of methamphetamine use and its associated harms as a health issue, rather than a criminal one, cannot be overstated.
Once again, I thank the committee for this opportunity, and will endeavor to answer any questions you may have in relation to our submission.
Today the Board of the WA AIDS Council announced Peter ‘Willie’ Rowe as Interim CEO, following the death of Chief Executive Officer Andrew Burry at the weekend.
Mr Rowe has a long association with the Council, having served on its Board for over 10 years, including three as Chairperson. Mr Rowe has also served as the President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), and was most recently Chief of Staff to former Premier Colin Barnett in WA State Government.
Current Board Chair Asanka Gunasekera thanked Mr Rowe for offering his knowledge and experience in this challenging time. “We are very grateful to have Willie step in to the role on such short notice and to provide support and leadership at a crucial period for the Council.”
Mr Rowe will begin work immediately and will be tasked with developing the recently announced pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, trial which is due to begin in mid-2017.
The WA AIDS Council has been overwhelmed with messages of condolence and support in recent days following Mr Burry's passing. The Board and staff would like to acknowledge these kind words and thoughts at a difficult time.
The Board also announced the creation of a Search, Recruitment and Selection sub-committee to find a permanent CEO.
On Saturday March 25, while on holiday in Taiwan, WA AIDS Council CEO Andrew Burry sadly passed away, after a suspected heart attack.
Andrew's commitment to WAAC was absolute. And, his service to the cause of HIV/AIDS awareness was not only life long, but was of such magnitude that its benefits will be felt for countless years to come.
In the last six months alone Andrew was instrumental in creating a new strategic plan for the Council; negotiating full ownership of our head office at 664 Murray Street West Perth; he successfully tendered for a contract to develop a Methamphetamine Peer Education Project and more recently, secured $420,000.00 from the WA Government to establish a WA PreP Demonstration Project for the wider community. Andrew did all this while running a $4 million agency of 43 employees and around 70 volunteers; not to mention, helping a new Board of Governance find their feet through his resolute warmth, patience and generosity-of-spirit.
From M Clinic to the Freedom Centre, from NSEP to STYLEAID and from SHAPE to the Safe Schools Network, Andrew's work was prodigious and his far-reaching influence will be with us, always.
Tributes for Andrew have been overwhelming. Here are just a few:
"On behalf of the Acacia Health Centre staff we extend our sincere sympathy on the passing of your CEO Andrew Burry."
"I'm very sorry to hear of this news, I am sure it is a very difficult time at WAAC. My sincere condolences to you and the other staff."
"That's such heartrending news to hear. My heartfelt syympathy is with WAAC and Andrew's immediate family. May he rest in eternal peace"
"Very sad to hear the passing of anyone but he leaves a legacy and will be remembered for years"
"Condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of Andrew Burry CEO of the WA AIDS Council. Andrew has been a strong advocate for the wellbeing of people living with HIV and a significant contributor to the HIV response in Australia."
Senator Louise Pratt spoke in Federal Parliament to acknowledge Andrew's life and work. A video of the speech can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorLouisePratt/videos/1472569366150386/
The transcript is as follows:
Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (19:55): It is with sadness that I rise this evening to acknowledge the passing of Andrew Burry. His passing, this week, has come as a great shock to a great many people. Now is not the time for long tributes, but I do want to join with all those in the HIV and LGBTI communities in acknowledging his passing. Andrew recently served as the CEO of the Western Australian AIDS Council for some four years. He has also served as the vice-president of the Australian Federation of AIDS Councils and is well known here in the ACT as the former general manager of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT. He has also been part of the Victorian AIDS Council and sat on the board of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
In rising tonight to pay tribute briefly to Andrew, I really want to acknowledge what a significant contributor he has been to the HIV response in Australia. His knowledge, expertise and experience is going to be sorely missed by a great many, especially in my home state of WA. He was well-known as having an irreverent sense of humour but also as a strong champion for disaffected communities. He was a leader in both the HIV and LGBTI communities. As I said before, over a very long time he was an active and significant contributor to the HIV response in Australia. I want to join with people from a wide range of organisations in expressing my condolences to his family tonight.
Andrew Burry served the Australian community with distinction and purpose. The President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Dr Bridget Haire, said:
Andrew's powerful, robust advocacy was informed by an unshakeable conviction that community-led responses matter. His leadership, and the AIDS Council's standing, were recognised by the WA Government, which has announced that the Western Australian PrEP trial will be largely managed through WAAC's M Clinic.
Dr Haire also said:
His insights and experience have contributed greatly to AFAO's mission.
It is no small feat to get a PrEP trial up and running in Western Australia, and I think it is really testament to Andrew's great community engagement capacity and his community leadership. ACON's CEO, Nicolas Parkhill, said:
Many in the HIV sector knew Andrew to be a wonderful person who contributed a great deal to the Australian HIV response, in many roles, over many years. Countless people around the country will miss him greatly on both personal and professional levels.
Tonight, in briefly acknowledging Andrew's passing, we have lost a great community advocate. I pay tribute to the legacy that I know he will leave to the community for a great many years to come.
With shock and great sadness, the WA AIDS Council advises of the passing of Chief Executive Officer Andrew Burry. Andrew suffered a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Taiwan on Saturday March 25.
Andrew served as CEO at the Council for over four years, held the position of Vice President for the Australian Federation of AIDS Councils, was formally General Manager of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT and also worked at the Victorian AIDS Council. Andrew was an active and significant contributor to the HIV response in Australia whose knowledge, expertise and experience will be sorely missed.
The WA AIDS Council’s Murray Street office will be closed for two days, Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th March. Services for clients, with the exception of the Murray Street Needle and Syringe Exchange Program, will not be affected. The Council remains committed to the well being of clients and people living with HIV.
The Board of the Council are considering interim arrangements and further announcements are expected in coming days.
The Council would like to extend our sympathies to Andrew’s loved ones, and ask for the respect of their privacy at this time.
National Day of Women Living with HIV — promoting awareness
Celebrate. Advocate. Inspire. Empower.
March 9 will be the second National Day of Women Living with HIV. Coming the day after International Women's Day, this awareness-raising day was created by Femfatales, a network of women living with HIV of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA).
"We are aiming to create a greater awareness of the needs of women living with HIV in Australia, "said Femfatales Chair, Katherine Leane. "It's hard to believe that in 2017 some people don't think that there are women living with HIV in this country. But there are around 3, 000 of us, or about 10 percent of the HIV-positive population."
Because of the perception that women are not at risk of HIV, women don't test for it. Many women who are diagnosed with HIV here have never tested for it previously, not believing they were at risk. This can present them with serious health challenges as a late diagnosis can mean that they have developed a compromised immune system and sometimes, an AIDS-defining illness.
"On top of this, many suburban and regional GPs have never diagnosed someone with HIV, do not always recognise the symptoms or risk factors and are not sure where to refer patients for specialist care. It is very important that women diagnosed in these settings get referred to appropriate medical care and to the peer support agencies that can help people with their diagnoses.
"The more people talk about HIV, the more we encourage women to test for it, the more we will be able to diagnose and treat women appropriately. This is the aim of this special day," said Kath."We encourage all agencies involved with and concerned about women's sexual health to hold a morning or afternoon tea or other event to help raise awareness of HIV agencies that support women living with and affected by HIV."
For more details contact:
Femfatales Convenor, Katherine Leane
0410 707 923
NAPWHA Executive Director, Aaron Cogle
0468 438 214
NAPWHA is Australia's peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV. NAPWHA provides advocacy, policy, representation, health promotion and outreach at a national level.