Can You Help Shine A Light On Our Early HIV/AIDS Heroes?


World AIDS Day Photo

A University of Adelaide researcher is seeking to contact the many volunteers during the HIV/AIDS crisis that swept the world during the 1980s and ’90s.

“Australia’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is widely considered to be among the world’s best, but an important part of that time in the nation’s recent history – the contribution of volunteers – has yet to be fully acknowledged,” Associate Professor Paul Sendziuk said.

Sendziuk is head of the Department of History at the University of Adelaide and he’s involved in a national project analysing responses to HIV/AIDS in Australia, and the unique role played by volunteers in that work.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr Shirleene Robinson and Associate Professor Robert Reynolds, both from Sydney’s Macquarie University.

“Volunteer work is a crucial resource for many non-profit organisations. This study will shed light on the role volunteers play in times of crisis and how they can be best supported,” Sendziuk said.

“We’re looking to hear first-hand from individuals who volunteered in HIV/AIDS-related capacities in the 1980s and early 1990s, so that we can help to determine the full extent and significance of the volunteer contribution during this national crisis.

“We’ll be aiming to piece together who the volunteers were, what motivated them, and explore the emotional impact of the epidemic on them.”

Sendziuk said many Australians are justifiably proud of volunteerism and helping others to get through hard times is central to Australia’s national identity. The volunteers during the AIDS crisis came from very diverse backgrounds, he said.

“In addition to many members of the broader community, there were gay men and members of the lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, people living with HIV/AIDS, people living with Hepatitis C, people with haemophilia, intravenous drug users, and sex workers,” he said.

“All of these volunteers grouped together to answer phones, conduct community outreach, care for and nurse sick people, and offer administrative and business skills to AIDS organisations, such as the AIDS Councils which were a crucial part of the response in each state and territory.”

Associate Professor Paul Sendziuk is keen to speak with anyone who volunteered with AIDS organisations during the 1980s and ’90s. For more information and to register your interest in participating visit the project’s website.