annual report 2019-2020

About us

Living Positive Victoria is a not-for-profit, community-based organisation representing all people living with HIV in Victoria since 1988, and is committed to the advancement of human rights and wellbeing of all people living with HIV (PLHIV).

In response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Living Positive Victoria was created as a safe place to provide support and advocate for those living with virus. The demand for services increased over the years and the organisation has now grown to a team of 16 individuals providing workshops, peer support and activities that increase the psychological, emotional and social wellbeing of those living with, or affected by HIV. Living Positive Victoria also works closely in partnership with a range of HIV sector and other organisations to deliver a comprehensive and coordinated response to the needs of PLHIV in Victoria, nationally and internationally.

Living Positive Victoria’s services reach a member base of more than 1600 individuals, their partners and family members and their families across all races, ethnicities, genders, ages and sexual identities.

Living Positive Victoria is an Australian, incorporated association and registered Australian Charity for taxation purposes.


Dignity – we are proud of who we are, where we have come from, and the path we are leading.

Innovation – we are agile in our responsiveness to the needs of our community, effecting change from within.

Respect – we respect and support our members’ autonomy over their individual life-decisions and experiences.

Diversity – we support, and in turn are strengthened by, our community’s diversity and their confidence to express it in all aspects of life.


Living Positive Victoria shares the vision of the National Association of People with HIV Australia of a world where people living with HIV live their lives to their full potential, in good health and free from discrimination.


To enable and empower all people affected by and living with HIV in Victoria to be part of the response that seeks an end to the HIV epidemic.

Membership of Living Positive Victoria is FREE and is open to any person in VIC/TAS living with HIV, family members, health care workers, friends and supporters.

Living Positive Victoria works to provide programs and services for people living with HIV that go towards improved health education and awareness, building resilience, community connectivity, capacity building and peer-to-peer support.

With a one-off donation or regular recurring donations, your support will make a difference to the quality of life of people living with HIV and help us address the psychological and physical health barriers that alter the ability of people living with HIV to live the best life they can.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many health inequities in society, with many people left unemployed, education impacted across the board, healthcare and aged care settings tested, along with severe impacts on peoples’ mental health, increasing rates of family violence, and alcohol and drug use. More than ever before, our organisation has needed to pivot to support a diverse range of individuals living with and affected by HIV.”
“As Treasurer, my goal is to ensure the long term financial viability of this organisation, which has worked hard for the past 30 plus years to deliver for our community. There’s ongoing work to review our focus on better aligning our fixed costs, like rent and wages, with our variable costs like donations and funding.”
“In some ways it feels like everything has changed, but I want to assure you that our commitment to our advocacy, support and empowerment model that informs everything we do at Living Positive Victoria remains as strong as ever.”


The Peer Navigator Program has developed strong partnerships with a number of high-caseload general practices, hospitals and specialist clinics to provide one-on-one peer support for people living with HIV. The program supports people newly diagnosed with HIV to: engage in HIV healthcare; develop personal resilience and improve quality of life; and provide referral pathways into trusted community and health services. Evaluation of the Peer Navigation Program using the W3 Framework has demonstrated that engagement with peer navigators around the time of diagnosis, has led to significant improvements in quality of life and moderate improvements in client resilience, treatment indicators, confidence in asking questions with healthcare providers, and understanding undetectable viral load. Clinical partners also credit the Peer Navigation Program with improving retention in care for newly diagnosed patients and supporting re-engagement in care for people who had dropped out of care.

Between July 2019 and mid-March 2020, our peer navigation team managed 138 cases. We have a diverse client base with approximately 50% of clients born outside Australia, predominantly from Asia. Additionally, 15% of clients are women and 20% are heterosexual men.

“The peer navigators have been adaptive in their approach to client needs and found innovative ways to remain engaged with existing clients and to engage new clients who have never used their services previously.”

The move to a COVID-19 lockdown in March and the drop in new HIV diagnoses and referrals has significantly changed the way the peer navigation team works with clients. All client meetings moved to phone or online appointments. With a growing concern about the effects of isolation on our clients’ mental health and wellbeing, we implemented an outreach program to regularly check in with clients who are socially isolated or struggling with the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Since 1 April 2020, our peer navigators connected with another 102 clients.

Clients present to the Peer Navigation Program with a variety of needs. Prior to March, these were predominantly peer support for managing HIV, social support and HIV related immigration and legal issues. Since March 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions, the presenting issues have changed. Social support has gained an increased importance, with clients experiencing more extreme social isolation and the mental health impacts that stem from that. Some clients have lost contact with their usual social supports as a result of the restrictions. The peer navigators have been filling this gap with regular online phone appointments. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, peer navigators were also working with Medicare-ineligible clients, including tourists who were unable to leave Australia, and either unable to access HIV treatments or unsure how to access affordable medications. The program also saw a significant increase in people experiencing financial difficulties and in need of material aid, particularly international students, asylum seekers and migrant workers. While the program does not provide material aid, peer navigators have been active in supporting clients to access financial aid and other support services. The Peer Navigation Program also experienced an increase in newly diagnosed clients in the short period between the two Melbourne lockdowns.


The role of the Positive Speakers Bureau as a peer-led community-based program showcases the human face of HIV in the wider community. It provides speakers with the skills and support to deliver their stories to a broad audience of people across Victoria, to challenge issues of stigma and discrimination, and to end HIV. They also address the themes of treatments and their benefits to their own health and wellbeing.

Since its beginnings in 1992, the Positive Speakers Bureau has provided ongoing comprehensive training in public speaking for both new and existing members of the speakers bureau. This training aims to update the speaker’s knowledge of HIV treatments, plus provide professional development in the use of technology and enhancing their communication skills.

In 2019-20, the Positive Speakers Bureau has welcomed eight new speakers to the organisation, with a further 20 in training. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a shift in how we operate our training program, with a move to online and video conferencing of training for new members of the speakers bureau.

The Positive Speakers Bureau has received the ongoing support of Mr Timms Holden and his generous donation of $4000 in the 2019-20 period. Timms’ donation allows us to provide many talks to schools across Victoria.

Over the course of 2019-20, the Positive Speakers Bureau has delivered a total of 60 talks to community, government, educational institutions and health organisations to an audience of 2764 people. Since the COVID-19 lockdown of Victoria in mid-March 2020, there has been a dramatic decline in the requests for talks and as a consequence, our numbers have fallen compared to the same time in 2019.

World AIDS Day 2019 was themed “Every Journey Counts”, hosted by the Doherty Institute. The Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon. Jenny Mikakos, delivered the official launch speech, with the keynote speech delivered by Professor Sharon Lewin from the Doherty Institute. Two speakers, Stefan Joksic and Heather Ellis, spoke to their lived experiences of living with HIV. Over 120 people attended the event.

The World AIDS Day Community Forum was themed “U and me can stop HIV – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders HIV and sexual health”. This was a panel discussion moderated by Professor Margaret Hellard from the Burnet Institute with panellists, Garry Sattell, Peter Waples-Crowe, Bev Greet and Anne Roseman.

“The American scholar Hannah Arendt’s work in The Human Condition spoke of how the revelation of the self occurs in the polis, or public realm. For people living with HIV, and in particular those who are members of the Positive Speakers Bureau, the ability to tell their story and for it to be witnessed by others, is to “insert one’s self into the world and begin a story of one’s own” and in the process be empowered and recognised fully as a person.”

The 2020 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on Sunday 17 May 2019, was our first live-streamed event in response to COVID-19. This virtual event attracted the largest audience for a Candlelight Memorial that Living Positive Victoria has witnessed in over a decade, with 3500 viewers and over 1500 views on Facebook post-event. The theme “On the Shoulders of Giants”, addressed issues on HIV now and into the future and how we learn from our elders about the past to create leaders for a new generation.


No matter how old we are or how long we’ve had HIV, living with the virus can present many challenges. Ageing with HIV presents even more issues, not least how we navigate the health care system as we age and how we find our ‘place’ in our final years. While Taking Charge provides information around this aspect, it also employs a strategy of self-management, skilling up people with knowledge and tools to give them the self-confidence to care for themselves for as long as possible as they get older. In this way, we learn how to enhance the quality of our lives in our later years, while also holding onto our independence and therefore our self-worth.

Our monthly Peer Support Network meetings, which combine health promotion and social activities, continued through to the end of 2019. Activities and topics included sessions on yoga and meditation with our resident guru, Renate Vetter, as well a pharmacist from the Alfred Hospital presenting on the general principles of polypharmacy.

In March 2020, the Taking Charge team literally took charge as the COVID-19 pandemic began to develop and dramatically change the way we delivered health promotion information and activities to our HIV elder constituency – a population group cited as ‘at risk’ of serious complications if they acquired the coronavirus. This involved much thought and consideration as to how we were to have some kind of continuity in the ‘safe’ delivery of our health promotion.

So of course we turned to Zoom. We took our Peer Support Network events online, with the first session engaging in a discussion on the strategies our members found useful to deal with the pandemic. Taking advantage of communicating online, we then opened up our participation as we were joined by HIV elders interstate, and celebrated HIV Long Term Survivors Day by sharing our journeys in how we developed resilience over the years throughout the HIV epidemic.

Through 2019-20, Taking Charge has continued to enhance the knowledge base of and empowered our HIV elders by enhancing confidence and self-worth. As the population of people living with HIV ages, Taking Charge will continue in one form or another, in person or online, ensuring that our elders with HIV are enabled to continue to improve their quality of life.

President’s Award

Heather Ellis

Awarded at the discretion of the President to an individual, group or organisation within the broader community that has demonstrated visionary leadership in improving the quality of life for HIV-positive people. Often the recipient will have served over a long period and contributed to high level improvements in services for HIV-positive people and to an increased level of awareness of HIV issues.

This year’s President’s Award goes to Heather Ellis. Heather has done a lot work, both visible and invisible, to tirelessly challenge the stigma for women living with HIV. She has presented her lived experience of living with HIV multiple time in schools. Heather speaks passionately and eloquently about her unique journey of living with HIV in order to challenge misconceptions of living with the virus. In addition to being a well-respected author of books such as Ubuntu, One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa and Timeless on the Silk Road: An Odyssey From London to Hanoi, Heather has created a new podcast series that shares stories about life with HIV.

Heather has been Positive Women’s Peer Project Leader on Women and HIV: Tell the Story, a campaign to boost community understanding of HIV and to encourage women to share their stories.

Heather has also been doing a lot of work around challenging the stigma of HIV and breastfeeding and will be working to produce a resource on the topic.

Positive Health and Wellbeing Award

Victoria HIV Service: Outward Program and ID Social Work Team at Alfred Health

Awarded to an individual, group or organisation that has made an exceptional contribution to supporting, building and delivering excellence in health care, research and health promotion initiatives which improve the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV in Victoria.

Living Positive Victoria take great pleasure in honouring the work of the Victoria HIV Service: Outward Program and ID Social Work Team at Alfred Health for their commitment and dedication in supporting the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV over many years. Alfred Health has a long history of HIV care providing care to a large at-risk community in the Inner South of Melbourne. The Alfred also had vast experience in HIV care treating haemophiliacs infected with HIV attending the statewide Haemophilia service at The Alfred.

The Victoria HIV Service: Outward Program and ID Social Work Team are committed to providing invaluable specialised social work services to assist people with their adjustment to a recent HIV diagnosis, financial challenges, housing and homelessness issues, relationship difficulties in the context of living with HIV, and accessing government and legal assistance and services. The team also provides support to access aged care services and ongoing HIV care within these services; support for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, linkage to HIV services for people newly diagnosed with HIV; and assists in care management for people with complex HIV health and psychosocial issues. These are essential in supporting people living with HIV, particularly socioeconomically vulnerable people, in breaking down barriers to HIV management and care, and promoting health and wellbeing in all areas of a person’s life – physical, emotional, psychological and social.

The Alfred Health HIV Social Work team has been very proactive in supporting people living with HIV who are facing significant difficulties resulting from the impacts of COVID-19. These include severe financial difficulties faced by non-residents, people facing the impacts of COVID-19 related job losses, and the mental health impacts and social isolation caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Living Positive Victoria highly values the longstanding relationship with the Alfred Health Social Work team, as well as their professionalism and the dignity and respect they bring to their work with our community. The links forged between the Victoria HIV Service: Outward Program and ID Social Work Team and Living Positive Victoria’s Peer Navigation Program benefit us all in providing optimum care to people who are struggling with an HIV diagnosis or who are facing other challenges in their lives that impact their health, including their HIV health.

We would like to thank all of the people involved in this important work, led by Sharon Danilovich. We highly value the complex and difficult work you do, and that you perform it with such dedication and grace. We acknowledge the understanding of the lived experience of HIV that you bring to your work, which is critical in working with our community. We respect our partnership and look forward to working with you to continue supporting people living with HIV to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Community Development Award

Masters Media and NBS Productions

Awarded to an individual, group or organisation who has sponsored or financially supported and empowered our positive community to sustain and build activities and meet emerging needs.

Masters Media and NBS Productions were engaged by Living Positive Victoria in 2018 to produce a suite of video work acknowledging the 30th anniversary of our organisation. As part of this process, the production team became intimate with the aims and missions of Living Positive Victoria and has continued to deliver much valued marketing and promotional needs for our organisation with empathy, understanding and compassion towards our staff, volunteers, members and community as a whole.

Since the emergence of COVID-19, the need to move into online and video presentation has been an essential part of our service delivery, allowing us to remain connected to our members and program participants under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. The generosity of professional service that Masters Media and NBS Productions has provided Living Positive Victoria during these times has been over and above the expectations of a normal commercial arrangement, with results that have endeared them to our organisation and in turn, enlivened the already strong bonds between Living Positive Victoria and our community.

The Special Acknowledgement Award

The late Anna Georgiou

The Special Acknowledgement Award is given to an individual, group or organisation that has had a significant impact on the lives of people living with HIV through a sustained and extraordinary contribution that supports and empowers our positive community.

Our community needs shining stars like Anna. Without them, our world would be far less bright.

Anna was a charismatic and effervescent presence in the LGBTIQ community for over two decades and a much-loved friend and loyal supporter of Living Positive Victoria and our members. She demonstrated the true essence of volunteerism by recognising the need to provide something extra to members of the HIV community at a time when we often need it most. It is out of this insight that our Christmas Hamper Project really hit its stride and Anna was key in the development of the program almost 20 years ago.

Anna was one of the organisation’s longest-serving and most committed volunteers. Her natural charm, persuasion, wit and sensitivity worked wonders in sourcing donations for our hampers over many years, and she was able to obtain generous gifts, prizes and resources for events as wide ranging as our Treatment Interactive Events, community forums, Planet Positive and of course the annual Christmas Hampers.

Anna was one of the most well-connected volunteers in Melbourne. She could get tickets to any major event in town and introduce you to all the people ‘you need to know’. She was also notorious for being able to extract blood out of a stone and persuade the most resistant of potential donors to dig deep into their pockets. Fortunately for us, she used that knowledge and ability to obtain thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services from an ever-increasing and supportive range of individuals and organisations. She was instrumental in instigating relationships with key organisations including Mercedes-Benz, Peter Alexander Sleepwear and Paul Bangay Designs, who maintained their support for our organisation over many years. Throughout this time, Anna continued to selflessly donate time and effort to Living Positive Victoria and her commitment and energy never waned.

Upon Anna’s passing in May of this year, all of us at Living Positive Victoria had cause to sit back and reflect on the contribution she made to our team and to our events and programs. She was well-known to generations of staff, members and volunteers who came through Living Positive Victoria and was remembered for her flamboyance, her raucous sense of fun and a formidable presence that people found difficult to resist or brave enough to ignore. She was easy to engage, a pleasure to excite and a delight to be around. Through all of this she accepted and embraced all the colour and diversity of the HIV community and was known as a true friend and ally to many of our members.

In speaking to her friends and family, many have recounted the joy and fulfilment Anna received in assisting each year with the hampers, as well as cherishing the steadfast and loyal friendships she made over this period. These friends became a family that reciprocated her love, passion and support, especially during her periods of ill health and when she lost her dearest partner, Mark, a few years ago.

Our community needs shining stars like Anna. Without them, our world would be far less bright.

We will always be grateful to Anna for the hundreds of hours she dedicated to Living Positive Victoria and people living with HIV, and will greatly miss the kindness, generosity and love she showed for every member of our community.

Participation, resilience, empowerment and building community are only a few of the reasons which motivate our volunteers, our donors, our partners and our supporters to continue their involvement with Living Positive Victoria.

Our thanks comes not only from our staff and board, but from the diversity of people living with HIV who realise that with your support, we are stronger together.

Living Positive Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.
Living Positive Victoria (People Living With HIV/AIDS Victoria Incorporated)
ABN 67 049 438 341 • Registration No. A0039027B
Coventry House 95, Coventry Street, Southbank, Victoria 3006
T: 03 9863 8733
F: 03 9863 8734
E: info@livingpositivevictoria.org.au


All images have been used with permission. You must seek permission in writing from Living Positive Victoria before reproducing photographs from this report in any medium. The inclusion of a person’s photograph in the report implies nothing about their sexuality or HIV serostatus. The Living Positive Victoria Annual Report  2019-2020 is designed by Ography. ography.com.au