AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexual Health

An initiative of Morgan Alexander Consulting

Training and Facilitation expertise to meet your unique needs

A tribute to the volunteer service originally kown as Aidsline

We dedicate this page to honour the memory of the AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexual Health Line, which has now ceased operation. It was born out of a need at the begining of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and provided a valuable service to the Victorian community for twenty two years. A very special thanks to all the volunteers who have provided counselling to callers over that time. Without you the organisation could not have provided this muvh needed service.

Overview of the former service

AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexual Health Line was a not-for-profit, volunteer staffed phone counselling service, offering counselling and information on a variety of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections. The service also provided outreach through educational workshops.

The principle function of AH&SHL was to provide confidential and anonymous counselling, information and referral to the Victorian community through two phone services, AIDSLINE and Hepatitis Line. AH&SHL had a small professionally qualified staff of five and 60 highly-trained Volunteer Telephone Counsellors.

Aidsline

There was no such thing as a typical call and every person痴 situation was unique. Calls were often from people who either have engaged in, or were contemplating a particular sexual activity, and needed to discuss the potential related risks. The topic of HIV/Aids, in particular, can cause a lot of anxiety and we understood this. Myths still exist around this virus, which can cause unnecessary stress and confusion. We could discuss whether or not they might want an HIV test or testing for other STIs, and, if so, where are the best testing centres in Victoria. Our counsellors were trained to discuss all other issues that may concern the caller, such as sexuality, relationships and any other related topic.

We also had many calls from family and other loved ones of people with HIV, as well as from people living with the virus themselves. Often family and loved ones feel particularly isolated and unable to access HIV support facilities. Sometimes their own normal support networks cannot be accessed because of the stigma attached. The anonymity of our lines was therefore particularly welcome. We were there to talk to any caller about their questions, concerns or issues around this subject matter. All our counsellors were knowledgeable, friendly, patient and respectful.

Hepatitis Line

Callers come from a variety of backgrounds. Similarly there is no such thing as a typical call and every person痴 situation is unique. There are estimated to be well over 200,000 Australians who have Hepatitis C (or about 1% of the total population). It is apparent from the nature of the calls we had to the Hepatitis Line that there is a general lack of awareness, and confusion in the community about this virus. Many people newly diagnosed are not being given correct information to help them sort out the facts from the myths about transmission or the medical effects of having the virus.

Many of the callers to the Hepatitis Line either have the virus or want to discuss someone close to them who has it. We provided accurate information, and assisted callers to develop strategies for managing the issues they may face. The fear of disclosure and confidentiality were important for callers who may fear discrimination. The reality is that this stigma exists and stems from the virus痴 association with injecting drug use as well as inaccurate fears about transmission risks.

We also had many calls from family and other loved ones of people with Hepatitis C. There was often confusion about the differences between various forms of viral Hepatitis and we provided clear information related to Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

Service Closure

Early in 2007 the Department of Human Services discontinued funding the service. They cited a policy shift as the reason for this action and that it was not about the performance of the organisation.

The service was primarily funded through the Department of Human Services and has been since 1988. Even with the generous commitment made by volunteers to provide counselling on the phones, this funding is an essential foundation for the service to be provided.

With this in mind, and despite attempts to encourage the Government to reconsider this decison, the service unfortunately ceased to operate on June 30th 2007.

Morgan Alexander Consulting Morgan Alexander Consulting