Queensland Government supports seniors living with HIV to connect with service providers and age positively

Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Seniors and Disability Services The Honourable Craig Crawford

MC Vanessa Wagner, 60,:

  • Queensland’s first ever Positively Ageing Forum will take place in Brisbane on HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day (5 June).
  • Hosted by the Palaszczuk Government in partnership with Queensland Positive People, the forum is a chance for older people living with HIV to connect with frontline services, community organisations, and their peers.
  • Event MC Tobin Saunders, aka Vanessa Wagner, will share their experiences living with HIV and facilitate lively discussions with speakers and special guests.
  • There are between 6000 and 7000 people living with HIV in Queensland, about half of whom are over 50 years of age.

When Vanessa Wagner was diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) 32 years ago, she never thought she’d live to see old age, believing, like many, that the virus was a death sentence.

Now approaching 60, the entertainer will take the stage to MC Queensland’s first Positively Ageing Forum for older Queenslanders living with HIV on 5 June.

The event is being hosted by the Palaszczuk Government in partnership with Queensland Positive People on HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, which commemorates and celebrates the lives, courage, and advocacy of those who pioneered the HIV response.

Quotes attributable to Minister Craig Crawford:

“Queenslanders living with HIV deserve to age with dignity, without fear of status disclosure and discrimination,” said Minister Crawford.

“The Palaszczuk Government is proud to partner with Queensland Positive People to deliver this event on living and ageing positively with HIV on HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day.

“Bringing together frontline services and community organisations, the Positively Ageing Forum is a chance for older people living with HIV to connect with their peers and get information about a range of supports, including Queensland Government concessions and rebates, which can help to ease cost-of-living pressures.

“We’ll also be asking people what matters to them to ensure the next Seniors Strategy meets the practical and real needs of older Queenslanders – including those living with HIV.

“The Queensland Government is committed to fighting the stigma surrounding HIV and creating an age-friendly Queensland, where all seniors are supported to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Quotes attributable to Melissa Warner, CEO, Queensland Positive People:

“There are between 6000 and 7000 people living with HIV in Queensland, about half of whom are over 50,” she said.

“Older people living with HIV often experience social isolation and loneliness, as well as accelerated and accentuated ageing with multiple co-morbidities due to the early lifesaving, but toxic HIV medications they were given.

“After living with a long-term HIV diagnosis, many people are now facing the need for aged care services but remain wary of mainstream services and reluctant to engage after poor early experiences with the health sector and religious institutions.

“There is a need for assistance for those affected to navigate the complexity of services, including services that allow them to stay supported in their home and referrals to non-discriminatory aged care facilities and ‘safe’ community-based programs for those experiencing loneliness, social isolation and depression.

“That’s why this event is so important – to give older people living with HIV the chance to come together and connect as peers and to ensure they are aware of and linked in with support services.

“It’s also a chance to remember and honour those lives lost, and provide some light relief for long-term survivors, who have experienced significant levels of loss and grief, rejection from family and loss of whole of social networks due to people dying of AIDS.”

Quotes attributable to event MC Tobin Saunders, aka Vanessa Wagner:

“Any event around ageing and preparing for ageing is important, but particularly for HIV positive people for whom ageing can happen sooner. Our needs are a bit different to the general population,” they said.

“For me, ageing positively means wanting to look and feel good while maintaining my dignity, having access to information and connections to care, and making positive preparations to keep things going.

“Since my diagnosis, there has been more research into living long-term with HIV, and exciting developments in treatments and potential cures and vaccines. But what hasn’t changed is the enormous gap in public knowledge – ignorance feeds the stigma.

“I urge all Queenslanders to educate themselves about HIV, which is now a chronic but manageable condition that does not pose a threat to public health.”

Explainer/fast fact and or further information:

  • The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the human immune system and weakens the body’s response to infection. If left untreated, it can affect a person’s immune system, leaving the body less able to protect itself from disease and may progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • HIV is now a manageable chronic condition that does not pose a threat to public health. People living with HIV who are on prescribed treatment and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus.
  • HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (HIV PrEP) is treatment taken by HIV negative people to prevent HIV transmission.

/Public Release. View in full here.