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Celebrating 25 years of HIV and dementia care

District gathers at Yaralla House to recognise a milestone.

Five people standing at a table, cutting a cake.
SydneyConnect Image: The Yaralla House team celebrates 25 years 

Lorraine Sutherland is forever grateful for the care given to her son, Aaron. 

"The Yaralla staff are the family that are here for the residents each day. When we, their other families, can't always be here," she said. 

Her personal reflection was one of the stories shared to celebrate twenty-five years of state-wide HIV and Dementia care residential services, currently administered in Yaralla House. 

The unique facility, situated on the historic Dame Eadith Walker Estate in Concord, offers nursing-led residential care for people with HIV cognitive impairment to have the highly skilled level of care appropriate to their needs. 

"This is quite a milestone for our service. It's been a time of extraordinary change over those 25 years,” said Dr Roger Garsia, Immunologist and Director District HIV Services and Yaralla House. 

Current residents, staff and friends of the service joined Roger and Dr Teresa Anderson AM, District Chief Executive, to listen to personal reflections from people who have been touched by the unique service. 

Guests included Reverend David Anthonisz Concord Hospital Anglican Chaplain, District Board Members, past staff members, and partners from ACON, Positive Life, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, Tree of Hope, and Adahps. 

“The Yaralla House model has proved durable and effective. I am proud of our staff here at Yaralla and the work they do.” Dr Anderson said. 

“It's the only service of its kind in the world, not just in Australia but in the world.” 

Lisa-Anne Scaturchio, Yaralla House Nursing Unit Manager, is also proud of her team and the care they provide to residents.  

“We give patient-centred care, not diagnostic-specific care. It is care in the truest sense. It is collaborative, it is respectful. It is appropriate and non-judgmental. 

We look after our residents from the tips of their hair to the nails on their toes. My talented staff do it all.” 

Staff have had a long tenure in the service, with some nurses becoming a surrogate family to the long-term residents for more than a decade, and in some cases, even two decades.  

Initially set up as The Bridge in Glebe at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1990’s, the residential care facility complemented existing community-based AIDS dementia and HIV psychiatry services available.   

After moving to Yaralla House, the team have adapted their service model to care for people with varying neurological conditions and the challenges of ageing with HIV.