Natasha Stott Despoja joins ENUF
The eminent politician turned health and mental health advocate Natasha Stott Despoja has become the latest ambassador for the Living Positive Victoria (LPV) ENUF campaign.
The former federal senator and leader of the Australian Democrats, with her husband, businessman Ian Smith, have joined the campaign hoping to bring special attention to discrimination and stigma faced by women living with HIV.
“We have had nearly 30 years of progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating HIV around the world and Australia has been a leader, but at least one major impact of the illness has not changed, the stigma surrounding the disease,” Stott Despoja said.
Since leaving politics in 2006 Stott Despoja joined the boards of national depression initiative beyondblue and HIV and other communicable infection research centre, the Burnet Institute.
Stott Despoja was part of a recent Burnet Institute delegation to Myanmar where she met and discussed, among other important health issues, HIV/AIDS with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
While women make up over half the global HIV population, in Australia, women represent about nine percent of all people living with HIV, meaning their voices too often go unheard.
In 2011 Stott Despoja was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the parliament and as a role model for women.
In the lead up to World AIDS Day 2012 Stott Despoja said greater attention needed to be paid to the virus, especially in the lead-up to the 2014 World HIV/AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne adding that, in addition to research into diagnostic tests, emphasis was still needed on eliminating stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in Australia.
“Women and men still report high levels of discrimination. I am particularly concerned that women with HIV often get asked by people how they acquired the virus despite it being no one’s business, nor relevant, as to how people should be treated.”
“Awareness campaigns like ENUF are about challenging the negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes faced by all HIV-positive people. Natasha and I want to increase public knowledge of HIV stigma faced by women living with HIV, which can have a profound effect on their mental health and wellbeing,” Smith said.
“Natasha and I sit on a variety of boards independently, but this is the first time we will work together on a specific initiative,” he said. “It’s an ideal opportunity to combine our efforts for an incredibly important and all-too-often overlooked issue.”
(Image - Natasha Stott Despoja and her partner Ian Smith)