From Campaign Australia, July 1983:
Tags: Alison Thorne / ALSO / community responses / David Bradford / Ian Dunstan / Mark Howan / Melbourne / public meeting / Rex Melville
MELBOURNE: The Anderson auditorium at the Royal Dental Hospital was the venue for the June 16 AIDS information forum. The event, organised by the Alternative Lifestyles Organisation, was attended by over 300 people. The auditorium was filled to capacity, with many interested people being forced to stand. The meeting was the biggest non-social gathering since the Summer Offensive of 1980.
Chairperson of the ALSO foundation, Mark Howan, explained that the purpose of the forum was information exchange. He stressed that the meeting was neither for proposing action or causing alarm. ALSO does not have a brief to take a lead in the gay community, but we recognised a vacuum,” he said.
The meeting was addressed by four doctors: three medical doctors and a psychologist. The first speaker was Dr David Bradford, Director of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic. Bradford emphasised that any information presented may be proved incorrect in a few years because there are still so many unknown factors. He explained what AIDS actually is and how it began.
Dr Rex Melville outlined the different theories about the cause of AIDS. He stressed that no cases have been diagnosed in Melbourne. However 50 Melbourne men have been tested for immune deficiency and eight may have the prodrome, which while similar to AIDS is not as dangerous, he said.
After the lengthy question session the audience was invited to make comments. The first speaker Alison Thorne, said that AIDS was a medical question with political implications. In her speech she stressed that most people will be affected by AIDS, not through catching the disease, but through the rise of homophobic attitudes in the community. Thorne received a lengthy round of applause.
Another speaker claimed that much of the media misrepresentation had come about as a result of no individuals or organisations being authorised to act as spokespersons. “There is a need for a group with a mandate from the gay community to be established”, he said.
Secretary of ALSO, Ian Dunstan, closed the meeting by announcing that the ALSO AIDS committee would convene another meeting in three weeks time where there would be room for more public discussion. Details of this meeting will he available from Gay Line.