From Campaign Australia, July 1983:
Tags: community responses / confidentiality / contact tracing / decriminalisation of homosexuality / Fred Miller / Gay Counselling Service (NSW) / Laurie Brereton / NSW AIDS Action Committee / Ron Penny / St Vincent's Hospital (Sydney) / stigma / Sydney / syphilis / Terry Goulden
SYDNEY: A deputation from the AIDS Action Committee (AAC) to the NSW Health Minister, Laurie Brereton, received a favourable hearing and resulted in a promised re-organisation of Health Department committee structures and funding for a field worker to undertake “contract tracing” of possible AIDS cases. The deputation followed the publication of information in the Medical Journal of Australia that there had been one confirmed case in this country to date as well as a number of reported “prodromes.” The AAC resolved at its public meeting on June 19 to pursue these and other matters through an expanded and open committee structure.
The meeting heard a report on the newly started clinic, attached to the Immunology Department at St Vincent’s Hospital that is taking referrals for AIDS screening every Friday. The clinic is administered by Professor Ron Penny, who, although could not attend the meeting, relayed further information about the inadequacy of present screening techniques through the Director of the Gay Counselling Service, Terry Goulden.
The meeting also heard reports of a number of “prodromes” in Australia, which both the mass media and some sectors of the medical profession had been confusing with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Prodrome refers to a condition of immune impairment resulting in symptoms such as persistent swollen glands, or lymphadenopathy. fevers and night sweats. Some persons with the prodrome have gone on to develop AIDS, but most have not. It is not known whether there is any clinical connection between the prodrome and AIDS. At time of writing there are ten diagnosed prodromes in NSW. and a similar number in Victoria.
The day following the meeting four members from the AAC saw Health Minster Brereton, together with Fred Miller, who had arranged the deputation. Brereton began by expressing his enthusiasm for “the government and department to take whatever action necessary for the treatment and research of AIDS.” The Minister also emphasised that he “was more than happy to see active collaboration with the gay community”, but pointed out that this should be linked into a national network of information and action.
Brereton promised that funds would be made available to provide an extra worker at the STD Clinic to allow the tracing of sexual contracts of AIDS and other patients with serious STDs, particularly syphilis. Recognising that the current state of the NSW laws could be a problem for homosexual men. he affirmed that he was not in agreement with the current criminalisation, but given the present situation he would do everything in his power to ensure the confidentiality of information collected.
The AAC deputation expressed considerable disquiet over the lack of consultation and the number of ill-informed statements that had been made from within health bureaucracy to the media. Brereton said that he was “very keen to discourage” statements that attempt to stigmatise the gay community.” He indicated his agreement with a proposal to include AAC representation on relevant Health Commission committees.
As a result of the deputation a new umbrella committee will not be established to co-ordinate information and activities of other, specialist committees on AIDS. The AAC, the Minister indicated, would be invited to serve on such a body.