Building leadership and resilience for people living with HIV

As SAMESH’s Poz Peer Navigator, Craig Shrubsole is no stranger to advocating for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

“We’ve had 40 years of this journey, and it’s clearly not over. Our community need people to advocate for each other so that future generations have the best opportunity to be their best selves living with HIV.”

It’s why Craig attended the Positive Leadership Development Institute (PLDI) Workshop, which offers people living with HIV the opportunity to develop skills for leadership and resilience.

Poz Peer Navigator Craig Shrubsole (left) with Kath from Positive Life SA (left)
Poz Peer Navigator Craig Shrubsole with Kath from Positive Life SA at a community event

He’d heard amazing things about the workshop, and thought it would help him feel more self-empowered, more self-aware, and better equipped to advocate for his community.

He left with all that and more.

“Three days of emotions.”

“It pronounced the importance of people working in the sector to continue the legacy of advocating for people with HIV. The next generation needs to hold people to account so there are better opportunities for the community and better treatment options while addressing stigma and discrimination,” he said.

Sarah Feagan is a PLDI Workshop Coordinator, and she said the workshop’s tone is unlike anything else in the sector.

“The selection process is quite brutal. I work as a Peer Navigator at Living Positive Victoria as well, where I’m holding people’s hands and guiding them through processes, and it’s really lovely and gentle,” she said.

“Whereas PLDI is more like ‘you didn’t finish it, so you’re out’ because we get such a high amount of applicants. It is quite cutthroat. We expect people to be wanting to step into a leadership space.”

In her eyes, leadership in the HIV space is critical. She said, “The HIV movement 40 years ago saw no leadership from government or health departments.”

A lot has changed in 40 years, but Sarah said HIV Still Matters.

“Speaking to some of the elders in our community, they often feel like, well, it doesn’t matter because they’ll say, ‘I’ve got one pill a day, and U=U, and it’s all kind of over.’”

Sarah said there are still issues around equality, safety and access to treatment and prevention information. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to evolve in new ways as migrating populations change how health promotion messaging is best delivered.

“The work is far from over. We have not ended HIV in Australia.”

Before becoming a coordinator, Sarah attended the PLDI Workshop. She’s gone on to become the Chair of Positive Women Victoria and the Vice President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA).

“It kicked off my advocacy in a massive, massive way. It gave me that confidence to actually step forward and put myself out there.”

Sarah encouraged people living with HIV to apply to the next workshop taking place in Queensland from October 1-3.

“What I love about PLDI is that it prides itself on inclusion and diversity — whether that’s geographical, sexuality, gender, race or anything else. That’s why the program has such a great impact.”

Apply for the next PLDI Workshop on their website.

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