PRIDEFEST 2017: Proud campaigner

THIS is what HIV looks like in 2017”

This is the powerful tagline on this year’s AIDS day billboard campaign, featuring photos of six ordinary-looking people living with the condition.

It is the first campaign of its type in Australia and WA AIDS Council’s Mark Reid is hopeful that featuring people confident enough to go public about their condition will break down some of the stigma surrounding the disease.

“The major issue that we still deal with is the issue of stigma that still exists,” he says.

“This issue stops many people being completely honest about their HIV status and hinders their ability live happy, fulfilled lives.

“This affects personal, familial and work relationships.

“I am excited that this year for the first time in Australia we are running a world AIDS day billboard campaign…we are aiming to do more work to break down the stigma and discrimination that we find ourselves facing in 2017.

Reid has been involved with the WA AIDS Council for over 20 years and on Saturday, November 4, he was only the second inductee into the Proud hall of fame at the PrideFest awards ceremony.

Before joining the council he was the community centre coordinator at People Living With HIV in Perth, and during the early days of the HIV epidemic — when paranoia and stigma was at its worst — he bravely lived as an openly gay man and raised awareness about the condition and educated the Perth community.

Hall of famer Mark Reid

“The challenges are from the early days of the HIV epidemic when we were dealing with the deaths of so many people and the toll that was taking on the community and then the biggest achievement has been the advances in treatment that have enabled HIV to move from being a death sentence to being seen in Australia as a chronic, manageable illness,” he says.

“There is a suite of different options for support for people living with HIV in Perth today and it has evolved over the years, just like the epidemic has evolved, and to stay relevant all organisations working with people have had to change and adapt to remain relevant and to be able to give the best quality of support for people.”

Reid was also behind STYLEAID, a WA fashion fundraiser which ran for over 20 years and raised about $1.6million for the WA AIDS Council.

“It was always one of the best black tie parties in town and we are now developing the event to bring it back in a brand new way in 2019 which is really exciting,” he says.

Reid now works as an HIV peer education officer for the council, but despite being a hall of famer he’s not resting on his laurels, and wants the government to introduce legislation supporting marriage equality.

Worlds Aid Day is on December 1.

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