New beginnings

2002 marked the beginning of a period of major change for the HIV Services Program as the VAC/GMHC terminated its lease on the premises in Acland Street, St Kilda, which had housed the Centre Clinic and the Positive Living Centre (PLC) since 1993. The Centre Clinic moved to its very own location at 77 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda and the PLC moved to the Braille Library site in Commercial Road, South Yarra, together with the HIV Services Program, which had been located at the VAC/GMHC’s main office, the Peter Knight Centre in Claremont Street. The VAC/GMHC was forced to post a substantial deficit for the 2002 financial year after being unable to obtain government funding to assist with the extensive renovations that needed to be made to the new buildings, in addition to relocation costs. But it was worth it. The Braille Library provided much needed extra space for the PLC and resulted in enhanced services for PLWHAs. The feedback from volunteers, staff and clients was ‘overwhelmingly positive, with comments focusing on how welcoming and bright the new premises are in comparison to Acland Street’.48

As the complexity of the healthcare needs of PLWHAs rose, many clients required more frequent visits and longer consultations. The extra space allowed the Centre Clinic to make more appointments available and in the first two months of operation at the new centre in St Kilda, the clinic saw a 15 per cent increase in client numbers.49 From then on, the Centre Clinics – both in St Kilda and Northcote – focused on providing quality holistic health care in a welcoming and supportive environment. Their involvement in clinical trials and research projects, in collaboration with various research bodies, ensured that services were provided according to the latest research and management guidelines on HIV care strategies.

The HIV Services Program expanded further with the inclusion of a supported accommodation service. The VAC/GMHC was approached by the AIDS Housing Action Group (AHAG) in 2000 to have its In Home Support Program (IHSP) auspiced by the VAC/GMHC. The IHSP had begun in 1996 when the AHAG was granted funding by the federal government for the purchase of six properties in Melbourne with easy access to The Alfred Hospital. The program provided supported accommodation for PLWHAs experiencing mental and/or physical impairment, while allowing them to maintain their independence and involvement in community life.50 The IHSP moved into a new office at the PLC in 2002, which Coordinator Madeleine Berry reported ‘vastly improved communication between myself and other services for positive people, and helped raise the profile of the In Home Support Program’.51

In 2007, the IHSP was formally integrated into the VAC/GMHC HIV Services Program. Manager John Hall reported, ‘Whilst it has served the community well as a stand alone service for 11 years, the synergies and collaborative relationship IHSP has had with HIV Services has made this the most logical step for both organisations’.52 The same year, five more units in Yarraville were acquired, followed by another in 2009. The units were located together on the one site, allowing the program to trial a residential model designed to foster a sense of community. Hall reported in 2010:

Although not without teething issues, the model is progressing extremely well with clients providing considerable support to each other, while a number are also building strong relationships with the surrounding community. Most clients involved have experienced improved independence, improved health outcomes and increased socialisation.53

To Facing discrimination Vignette


HIV Services Manager John Hall

HIV Services Manager John Hall (right) with volunteers at the Volunteer Christmas Party in 2012. When the In Home Support Program (IHSP) was formally integrated into the HIV Services Program in 2007, John Hall called it a ‘logical step for both organisations’.


WAD poster 2009
WAD poster 2011

World AIDS Day posters are an opportunity to spread important messages.