Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The HIV Book Project launch went off with a bang :)

Instagram. Phillip Shipton and Roy Wilkins, creators of The HIV Book Project
There was much interest and a lot of people at the launch of the HIV Book Project last night. Heaps of people turned up and much more books were sold than expected. Even my psychologist came along and bought a copy. 

The HIV Book Project is a not for profit book put together by Phillip Shipton and Roy Wilkins (pictured above from the Facebook page linked). Phil was the interviewer and Roy the photographer (Roy also took our wedding pictures for us). All the proceeds of the book are going to charity. 

You can purchase a copy here.  $50 Australian.

''The HIV Book Project'' is a powerful Australian collaborative work documenting the lives of twenty HIV positive people from a diverse range of backgrounds using reflective interviews and portraiture style photography to capture the essences of their responses to living with the HIV virus since 1985.

The project is a peer-led initiative; conceived, coordinated, photographed and documented by HIV positive people to engage with affected individuals and the wider community. The stories showcased here will surprise you with their candour, resilience, courage and strength in the face of adversity.

 As the 40th anniversary of both the World AIDS Day commemoration and the Sydney Mardi Gras occurs in 2018, this is a timely artistic representation of this social history highlighting the significant changes that have occurred since the early days of HIV, its impact on our communities, and where we are today.

 HIV has changed significantly over the last 30 years, from an acute infection to a chronic condition. With improved anti-retroviral treatments, we have seen our friends and our lovers living with HIV move out of the hospital wards, back into society, relationships, full-time employment, and life, albeit with ongoing stigma and discrimination.

 We hope that this book will educate the wider community of the issues and complexities HIV positive people have contended with since it's discovery and continue to cope with, and trust that it may honour all those who lost their lives and still endure its effects. Purchase here.
David and I took a few snaps with my little camera. Roy had an exhibition of some of the photos he took during the project. 
*click to enlarge
David and I's picture was near the end so of course we took each other's picture under it. The lighting was poor and only my old camera, so I reckon David come out better than me. I as usual look like a deer caught in the headlights :s
Me. Terribly un-photogenic :s
Here's our contribution to the book. On the second photo is a very nice picture of David and I interacting, plus Zac the cat :)

The book selling table and some of the people there on the night.
Lovely hand photo bomb there.....
This was when Roy was looking at my antique camera and the flash went off, ha ha :) Glad we didn't have to pay for that to be developed like in the old days of film!

David and I are both very proud to be a part of such an important project as this. I've yet to go through much of the book but my and David's story is just one of many. The book pulls no punches and tells it just like it is (actually David and I were very nervous in the interview and self medicated throughout it with Aldi wine). The book is an invaluable contribution to the HIV experience in Australia being told.

Some people who read it may be shocked at the level of stigma, ignorance and paranoia that still exists even today in Sydney, Australia. 

For example, David had a fellow nurse asking management before he lost his job - "He coughs all the time, can you get it from coughing?" - this from a registered nurse in Sydney FFS! 

I myself was the focus of discrimination in one of the biggest hospital emergency rooms in Australia after I fell over in the bathroom and cut my head open, when David overheard one of the nurses say "I'm not going near him, he's infectious". Despite it being a head injuring and coming in by ambulance, they sent me to the waiting room for 5 hours before the doctor was available to see me. No bed, no examination of the injury apart from triage, no ongoing observations of my state for 5 hours which is supposed to be done with a head injury. We put in an official complaint to the hospital after it all, but the response was just a bunch of nurses covering their ass so I gave up. How do you fight that?

When I was diagnosed in 2009 at the Albion St Clinic, I went back and saw my GP I'd been seeing for a few years for this and that (at a "family" health  clinic) and told her I was HIV positive. Her reaction? "Well I am surprised Peter. You're a big boy now." I never saw her again after that. Talk about victim blaming. Would she have said that to someone diagnosed with cancer?

Yes the meds are fantastic now and 75% of us are undetectable with the meds, unable to pass on HIV in unsafe sex. But the ignorance and stigma remains. We remain within a narrow band of medical professionals who we can trust and use for our health care. The wider health community remains a wary place for us to tread foot, even now in 2018. Indeed most HIV discrimination today happens in health care.

I trust this book will go a long way in addressing that. As well as in the general community to educate them about what it is to be HIV+ in 2018. Yes it's true that HIV and indeed life has had a huge effect on us, but at the same time we're not lepers to be blamed for our illness, along with all the fear, stigma, and demonisation that goes along with that. We're simply HIV positive....

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