DECEMBER 1 is World AIDS Day 2012 and it is an important opportunity for local communities to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
As part of World AIDS Day, community groups and organisations across Australia are holding events to increase community awareness about HIV, and to highlight HIV related stigma and discrimination, which can have a positive impact on attitudes and behaviours relating to HIV and for people with HIV.
Jenny Heslop, Manager of North Coast HIV and Related Programs (HARP) said a lack of knowledge and fear of HIV may result in stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviour by the community toward people with HIV if they cannot access information and understand that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact.
"Recent studies in Australia show stigma and discrimination issues around HIV are particularly present in rural and remote communities," she said.
"Furthermore, stigma and discrimination can have detrimental impact on the health of people living with HIV (PLWH) and create barriers for others in the community needing to access information, testing and treatment.
"Not only do we need to combat HIV itself but also cultural factors like stigma and discrimination in the workplace, in health care settings, schools, families and communities."
Ms Heslop added due to improved treatments, people living with HIV are now living longer and healthier lives but unfortunately there is still no cure for HIV.
She said the most effective way for people to protect themselves and their partners in reducing the spread of HIV is to consistently use condoms with sexual partners and have regular HIV and STI testing.
Ms Heslop is encouraging local communities to support World AIDS Day 2012 and those living with HIV by wearing a red ribbon.
This year there will be a number of awareness activities and stalls running across the North Coast to commemorate World AIDS Day and honour the red ribbon.
A major community awareness program titled 'Aboriginal Support Workers DRAWING attention to HIV Stigma and Discrimination' will be held in Lismore during World AIDS Day week.
For information on World AIDS Day 2012 please visit www.worldaidsday.org.au