Address by Brent Allan, CEO Living Positive Victoria as part of the HIV Sector Roundtable on Crystal Meth

Address delivered by Living Positive Victoria CEO, Brent Allan, to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into crystal methamphetamine PUBLIC HEARING on Wednesday 29 July 2015:

“Thank you Mr Chair and to committee members for the invitation to address this public hearing.

As a member of the leadership team at Living Positive Victoria our mission to support, advocate and champion PLHIV as central and vital in the collective effort to end HIV in Australia.

My opening remarks encourage a reflection and consideration of how a collective, bipartisan partnership response (which acknowledges the voice and action of affected communities as powerful agents of social change), to a complex social and health issue has already been led and modelled by Australia.

It is without question that Australia is internationally renowned for having one of the most contained HIV epidemics in the developed world and this is due to one simple fact – Australia acted early in the HIV epidemic to implement pragmatic non- judgmental public health and social action interventions such as wide spread NSP, community led education and support services as well as risk and harm reduction advice predicated upon community knowledge and achieved this in the context of widespread community fear of HIV and PLHIV often fuelled by misinformation and stigma.

The success of the Australian HIV response embodies social action on health it is an example of what can be gained when pragmatism trumps moralism, when the voices and experiences of affected communities are harnessed to support not punish, when the reaction of those in power and authority to enact punitive laws is set aside in favour of promoting health and wellbeing, human rights and civil liberties because further marginalizing already marginalized communities is unethical, unjust and unfair.

However, effective social action on health can be easily diminished when community fears are fuelled by ill-informed political rhetoric and media hysteria for this not only creates a platform for misinformation it exacerbates the shaming, silencing and marginalisation of the people most in need of health promotion, social programs and community building services.

PLHIV know all too well the damaging effects of shame, silence and stigma and we stand in solidarity with our community members facing the same effects because they are a person who uses illicit or recreational drugs such as methamphetamines.

But unlike methamphetamine users, PLHIV have access to education and health promotion resources which speak to them about ways to reduce risks and harms in their lives and much of this often comes directly from the lived experiences of others living with HIV.

But where are these resources for people using methamphetamines so that they can learn from their peers’ experiences in order to reduce the risk and harms of their use?
Where is the political will to endorse community-led peer programs and the investment in community leaders to support and advise upon research, policies and strategies to divert people from the harms and risks of use before it can become problematic?

And how do we even open a community dialogue that acknowledges that drug use is not a social evil or a personal failure and its presence is ubiquitous across our communities; and although its form and nature may change – it is how we educate, inform and support our communities which mitigates and minimizes any potential personal or social harms from drug use.

So why is it that we continue to tolerate the misinformation and absence of quality targeted harm reduction resources on meth and the stereotyping of people who use it?
Australia must recognize that is has a model of international best practice which has demonstrated how to tackle complex social and health issues and it is not predicated upon silencing and shaming affected communities or denying community harm reduction education, information and support programs.

I fear that an effective and coordinated national policy is being negatively affected by a political tone and media response that promotes a narrative of fear and a seemingly blinkered view to continue to promote failed drug law and health policy responses.
We know that investments in scaling up community leadership and mobilization creates market appropriate and accessible information and support programs so that people at risk of harm are not left trying to figure out for themselves strategies what should be available without judgment or condemnation or the censorship from those to whom these services are not directed.

We must urgently change the current community dialogue which continues to scapegoat those who use methamphetamine to a more informed and sophisticated discussion across the jurisdictions of justice, health and education which acknowledges use, encourages responsible use and equips people with the knowledge and skills to use safely.

It’s ironic that Australia’s early response to HIV was, and at the time, seen by some as “permissive” and that enabling marginalised communities such as gay men to run community-led education and support was seemingly contrary to the prevailing notion that only sound professional respected direction provided by experts and authorities was needed in such urgent and dire circumstances such as HIV.

I believe that our challenge is this – are we brave enough to enable and equip yet another marginalized community – people who use drugs to respond to the gaps in education, treatment, care and support using their community wisdom and insights like we did with the Australian response to HIV or will we continue to support political fear mongering and scapegoating until the solutions are well and truly out of reach.

If we do not rise to this challenge the result will be more people unable and without the ability to identify and understand successful harm reduction strategies and the real control over their own use.”

Address by Brent Allan, CEO Living Positive Victoria as part of the HIV Sector Roundtable including Linda Forbes (AFAO), Nicolas Parkhill (ACON), Tony Maynard (NAPWHA) and Craig Cooper (Positive Life NSW).

More information about Living Positive Victoria’s position, information and services around crystal use can be found here.


David Menadue

Alfred Health set up an HIV Services Advisory Group last October to consult the HIV community about the way forward for their HIV Services. Some proposed changes, particularly to Fairfield House’s operations, had upset a number of people in the community and the hospital, to their credit, decided they should consult with the community before proceeding with any proposed changes to the service.

The Advisory Group includes five HIV Positive members, a representative from the Department of Health, and staff from the Alfred. The Alfred Health’s CEO, Andrew Way, chairs the Committee and has shown a willingness to take on board new ideas and suggestions.

At the first meeting in October last year, Andrew Way explained why the Alfred was thinking about regarding HIV services. The clinical environment around HIV is changing, he said, and care is moving more into the community with shared care with S100 prescribers becoming the central way that PLHIV are managed these days. There was also the likelihood that some community pharmacies will be able to dispense HIV medications. The Alfred doesn’t want to duplicate services if they are no longer required.

The Group has met three times and is working on three priorities:
1. Raising awareness of and improve access to PrEP at The Alfred and around
the State;
2. Promoting Cultural Safety in the services provided by The Alfred (which may
include achieving the Rainbow tick accreditation from Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria)
3. Review services for people needing interim levels of care (e.g. Horizon Place
and Fairfield House clients).

At the February meeting the group isited Horizon Place, a residential service for PLHIV run by the Alfred, so that all Group members could understand better what this service provides. The Group was then guided through Fairfield House. The ensuing meeting discussed the need for accommodation like Horizon Place into the future and whether there was still a need for respite for PLHIV.

A number of positive people have provided input to Group members about the Alfred’s services and suggestions about what services must remain areas in need of improvement or possible changes.

If you would like to have your say, feel free to contact Reference Group members Bernie Slagtman (0402 859885) David Menadue (0412753338) Max Niggl ( 0412 082 372) Phil Elphinstone (0466 726 277) or Michelle Wesley on (0421 329 984 ). Or email

Hex – a response by David Cuskelly



Very easily – Hex impressed me last night.

The performance itself was smart, had moments of humour, moments of sex, moments of loss, of life and well portrayed our brothers’ and sisters’ stories of resilience, opposition, battle, endurance, strength, continuation and hope. I liked the way Hex depicts our Gay & Lesbian history. Moving through that huge shift; where everyone at the time experienced loss and those that made it to the other side ensured those left behind are remembered. Very nice work James.

The only emotion that the performance seemed to miss was fear. It then occurred to me – James is too young to have experienced any of that initial fear. He has only ever known a world with HIV.

Then something else occurred to me: I’d actually ignored that the newer generations of the GLBTIQ community have only ever known a world with HIV. When did I close my eyes to that? Then James got me thinking even further – we don’t share our stories and experiences any more with each other as we once did.

Then I read the programme – James thinks the same thing!


I relished (and really still do) in the tales from Doug, the stories from David B. and all the experiences my older brother freely shared with me. These three men shared everything. From the good, to the absolutely hysterical, to the horribly terrifying.

It was amazing to have such a think tank at my disposal and I really got to appreciate everything that my brothers and sisters – the broader queer community – had personally experienced and intervened with to alter the future.

Is it that the youth of today do not listen to the tales of the past, or is it that my peers are not sharing their lives and loves as they once did?

I don’t know what the answer is – but I agree whole heartedly with James. We need to spark greater intergenerational conversation, and yes I mean both ways.

The show itself is very emotive and it made me reflect on my own thought process and my subsided and startlingly lacking involvement with GLBTIQ social commentary.

Last night’s performance has ignited something within that makes me want to ACT UP and fight AIDS all over again and again and again!

Thank you Hex.


A new dance work on AIDS memory, activism, sex and the disco from the perspective of Gen Y choreographer James Welsby at fortyfivedownstairs, 6 – 11 May 2014.
For more information on HEX, call 03 9662 9966 or visit

2013 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference – Day One

2013 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference

First time conference attendee Daniel Brace, who works in the Health Promotion team at Living Positive Victoria is currently in Darwin, Northern Territory for the 2013 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference. This post is an account of a very busy first day at the conference, including a recap of the day’s activities and key points of interest. Edited by Simon Bailey in Melbourne.

The 2013 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference is being held in Darwin with 642 delegates from all over Australia and surrounding region, with numbers climbing to over 850 as the conference spills over into the Australasian Sexual Health Conference at the end of the week.

Having never been to Darwin, this little correspondent was pretty excited to step off the plane and into the hot, humid tropics. Well, at least for the first hour.

Continue reading

2013 Annual General Meeting awards

On Thursday 10 October 2013 at Living Positive Victoria’s Annual General Meeting, a selection of awards were presented to recognise outstanding individuals, groups and organisations in six categories. Descriptions of the awards, photographs from the presentations and award citations are listed below.

President’s Award

awarded to: David Menadue

This is presented at the discretion of the President to an individual, group or organisation that has demonstrated visionary ledership 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 awareness of HIV issues.

Sam Venning with David Menadue

Over many years David Menadue has been a strong and consistent representative speaking with a wide variety of stakeholders to support the interests and priorities of PLHIV.

He was a past Board member of Living Positive Victoria in the roles of Vice President 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2004/2005, 2005/2006, Secretary 2006/2007. Director 2007/2008, Resigned in October 2008 and a member of the Positive Speakers Bureau since the early 1990’s.

He is a current board member of the VAC/GMHC.

David also sits on the Alfred Health Community Advisory Committee. He was part of a skilled group of consumers mainly from the Port Phillip area who work with hospital management to ensure patients and carers are provided with the best possible care. 

He also helped Bayside Medicare Local to get the perspective of people with HIV included in forums they offer for local medical providers, including GPs. – citation by Sam Venning Continue reading