45 days, 45 lives - HIV/AIDS Legal Centre

By HIV/AIDS Legal Centre Inc

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The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) is a not-for-profit, specialist community legal centre: the only one of its kind in Australia. We tackle the severe stigma and discrimination associated with HIV by providing specialist services to vulnerable people living with HIV.

HALC is a registered charity, and all donations over $2 are tax deductible.

45 days, 45 lives

As part of this campaign, HALC's staff and volunteers will be sharing our stories. We'll share with you one incredible story every day till our campaign ends on 30 June 2015.

You can sign up here to read about our work and share our stories. Do your part and help us educate people about the difficulties that people face due to HIV discrimination and stigma! You can also support our campaign on Facebook.

HIV Stigma

HIV Stigma and discrimination remains a fact of life in Australia today. We've already seen almost 800 people since July 2014 - but the government only pays for half of that work.
400 people would go without every year if it wasn't for the funds donated by people like you, and every year that gap between government funding and need grows.
And that is on top of the fact that a third of people with HIV live below the poverty line, half have difficulty meeting basic expenses like food, rent and medication and half of the population have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and/ or live with at least one other major health problem.
We've already had to significantly scale back our services outside NSW - something that we've never received government funding for. Without your support, we would not be able to help women like Bridget.

Bridget*, 33, mother of 4, HIV positive, Western Australia

"I am from Rwanda and in 1994, when I was 14 years old, I was captured during the genocide and repeatedly raped. My father was killed and since then I have fled from country to country for safety, travelling from Rwanda to Congo to Zambia to Malawi and then back to Rwanda.

I wasn't safe in any of those places. I lived in refugee camps in Congo, Zambia and then Malawi, and in each country I was assaulted and raped and had to leave. I felt I had no choice but to go back to Rwanda - there I found no safety and the government persecuted me. When I arrived in Australia I got a lawyer through a government program (IAAAS). I was told that these lawyers had a lot of experience with refugees.

I was diagnosed with HIV when I went for the visa medical examinations, and this made me even more scared. I told my lawyer that I was HIV positive, she told immigration about my HIV status but didn't say anything else about it. In the interview I was asked a lot of questions. My lawyer didn't help me, at the end of the interview she only spoke for about one minute, she didn't even make any written submissions on my behalf. Immigration refused my visa because they said they didn't believe me.

My doctor told me about HALC and they represented me at the Refugee Review Tribunal. The first thing that the tribunal said was that they had read my extra statement that HALC had prepared, and their submissions and that the Tribunal believed me.

I knew from that moment on that everything would be ok. My case was very complicated but I knew that my lawyer was always working hard to help me, I knew this because she would call and ask me questions to learn more about me, and she was also speaking with my doctor and psychologist to get letters of support.
HALC are now helping my husband and babies, who are living as refugees in Malawi, to come Australia."

HIV disproportionately affects already vulnerable populations - gay men, migrants, sex workers, women and injecting drug users. We're fortunate in being able to assist groups that have been traditionally difficult to reach. Women and people from non-Australian backgrounds form significant portions of our client base.

The Hon. Michael Kirby has been a long term supporter of HALC and he says:

Here's what we're doing about it

We provide expert legal advice and representation to people with HIV-related legal problems. This includes migration law, family law, criminal law, tenancy, discrimination and employment law.

However, our work is not limited to individual casework - last year we ran test cases in the Supreme Court on privacy rights for people with HIV, authored a report on migration law and policy for UNAIDS, and were instrumental in the change of a long standing and discriminatory governmental policy.

We provided advice and representation in matters from Apprehended Violence Orders to representing clients dismissed from their employment on the basis of their HIV status. We produced resources for people with HIV, published articles in professional journals and ran education workshops for professionals and the wider community.

We are supported by a dedicated team of remarkable volunteers who allow us to assist twice as many people as we would otherwise be able to. Our volunteers are recent law graduates, law students, and qualified solicitors and barristers, all of whom give up their time to help people with HIV.

You can join us

We need your help to continue our work. We need you to pick up the slack for the work that the government does not fund. Your donations will go directly to providing services - wages for front line lawyers and paralegals, for court application and subpoena fees, to meet the basic costs of our amazing volunteers!

Read about our work and share our stories. Sign up for the 45 days, 45 lives campaign to hear a story about one of our remarkable client's stories everyday for the next 45 days. Spread the word, and help us educate people about the hardships people face for a simple medical condition.

You can help us by making a donation, and by sharing our campaign with friends, family and colleagues

HALC is a registered charity, and all donations over $2 are tax deductible.

You can sign up for our blog here and support us on Facebook.

*names and other details changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

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Team Members

Indraveer Chatterjee