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Taking steps to raise awareness

We all know of the amazing advancements in HIV treatment: that taking a single pill a day suppresses the virus to such an extent that a positive person becomes non-infectious. But while the world of medicine has moved on leaps and bounds, some things have stayed stubbornly the same.

More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, an environment of ignorance and fear persists. In 2016, HIV-related stigma and discrimination is the number one barrier to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Which is why a group of HIV activists — called the Hivsters (pictured) — are setting out on an eight-day 250 kilometres hike from Portland, Victoria to Penola, South Australia. 

The group will be hiking for up to 11 hours a day. On the way, they’ll stop off in towns in the back of beyond to spread awareness of HIV. “Our mission,” say the Hivsters, “is to dispel remaining myths that people living with HIV are somehow less capable of living full, rich lives or are restricted by their ‘condition’. HIV is not what it used to be. Treatments have changed and so should community perceptions. We are out to set the record straight.”

The Hivsters will do this by delivering educational talks and undertaking adventure challenges en route in an effort to show people that living well with HIV is indeed possible. “That’s what this walk is all about,” says hiker Stephen Watkins. “Showing everyone that HIV-positive people can do anything; that we can live well and proud — determined, resilient and unrestricted.”

The hike kicks off on Saturday 5 November. And the Hivsters need your help. There’s a GoFundMe page where people can donate dollars that will be used to supply the group with essentials such as accommodation and first-aid kits. As of 26 October, more than $13,000 had been donated (the goal is $16,000).

For more info head here.

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