GOING STRONG: Celebrating twenty years of SHAIDS are Jen Heslop (left) from North Coast Area Health Service for HIV with Dr David Smith and Rosalind Hawkins from SHAIDS.
GOING STRONG: Celebrating twenty years of SHAIDS are Jen Heslop (left) from North Coast Area Health Service for HIV with Dr David Smith and Rosalind Hawkins from SHAIDS. Cathy Adams

Sexual health clinic turns 20

IT WAS an occasion to remember those who are no longer with us and to look towards the future with hope and good humour.

SHAIDS in Lismore – the largest and oldest rural sexual health clinic in NSW - yesterday celebrated its 20th birthday.

Established in the early 1990’s to address the increasing community need resulting from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, over the last five years alone the clinic has helped more than 5500 clients.

“In 1990 HIV was classified universally as a fatal disease ... we are at a very different place today,” said the clinic’s medical director Dr David Smith.

“HIV is treatable and deemed to be a chronic disease in most cases.”

Even so, the services SHAIDS provides were still desperately needed, said North Coast Area Health Service area manager for HIV and related programs Jenny Heslop.

“There is even more of a need for HIV services with the aging issues now that it is a chronic illness. GP’s aren’t specialised in the area to deal with the drug combinations – it’s tricky stuff.”

Among the official speakers at yesterday’s birthday barbecue were Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell as well as one of the clinic’s clients who was also marking her 20th anniversary of being diagnosed with AIDS.

“You have been my lifeline over the last 20 years,” the client said.

Founding Clinical Nurse Consultant Rosalind Hawkins knows well the ups and downs, and near death misses, which that client and many others have endured over the past two decades.

Yet instead of being downcast, she remains hopeful about the future.

“When we first started here we were caring for people who were at the end of their lives because of HIV, now we are seeing people who are living longer with a better quality of life because of the medical management of HIV,” Ms Hawkins said.

And perhaps fittingly after one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence originally opened the clinic at Tara House all those years ago, the Order’s Sister Mary Sit On My Face yesterday blessed the building.



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