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Pozhet client celebrates 30 years of HIV support

Alice credits the service with changing her life.

SydneyConnect video: Alice's story

At 28, Alice had just had her second baby when she learned that she was HIV positive.  

Her husband had been ill with what they thought was pneumonia, but tests confirmed they had both contracted the virus. 

“It stopped our lives,” Alice said. 

“We had plans of how our life was going to look together -- it all just got pulled away from us.” 

The period after her diagnosis was tough for Alice and her young family. 

While they confided in close relatives about their HIV-positive status, they kept it from friends and extended family out of fear of its impact on their relationships. 

“Living in a community out in the suburbs with families with children, I had to keep it so hidden,” she said. 

“You don't want people to freak out and feel unhappy being around you.” 

The diagnosis also meant taking medications with “horrendous” side effects and, for Alice, the prognosis that she wouldn’t live past 50. 

“I felt very isolated,” she said. 

However, Alice’s life was to change when a friend told her about Pozhet. 

Pozhet provides support, information and advice to heterosexuals at risk of HIV, heterosexuals living with HIV and healthcare professionals in New South Wales. 

It began as a volunteer-run organisation and is now a state-wide service funded by the NSW Ministry of Health and hosted by Sydney Local Health District. 

Alice contacted Pozhet and for the first time, connected with other heterosexual people living with HIV. 

“I suddenly found my tribe of people and it was the first time I'd ever been in a space where I didn't have to think and guard my conversation in any way,” she said. 

“It gave me this enormous burst of confidence. And so, my life has been quite different since that time.” 

Meeting other people who shared her experience helped Alice to learn about new medications and refine her treatment plan; she now takes one tablet daily to manage her condition and is in good health. 

“That's another really important thing about the community too — you're learning about what's available and talking about what the side effects are and what your experiences are.” 

This HIV Awareness Week (1 – 7 June), Pozhet is proud to be celebrating 30 years of supporting people like Alice, said Susan McGuckin, Health Promotion Officer with the District’s Priority Population Program. 

“It has been an honour to help empower our clients and to increase visibility around this issue,” she said. 

“As we move forward as an organisation, we are committed to keep supporting our clients, their families and health professionals across the state.” 

On Pozhet’s 30th anniversary, Alice shared her heartfelt thanks with the organisation. 

“The happy, confident person that I am today is largely because of them,” she said.