Our history

We have a proud history of direct action. The many services and programs we offer today grew from unique partnerships between community activists, key clinicians and some politicians.

Established in 1983 after a public meeting called to express concern at government inaction over an emerging health issue (known as Gay Related Immune Deficiency, or GRID), the direction of a community and clinical response was driven by those infected and affected by HIV. Led essentially by the gay community, people were mobilised and engaged directly with governments, hospital administrators and allied health services to create a world-first model of care.  We began as a genuinely community-driven and vocal organisation where most tasks were done by people volunteering their time.

Our structure and issues have changed over time, but our volunteers remain a most valued resource in the delivery of services and still do about 85% of our work. We remain committed to leading the fight against HIV and related social justice issues, so our history is a work in progress.

For a more detailed history of our first 30 years (1983-2013) see "Under the Red Ribbon".

Timeline of key events


  • Australia’s first AIDS death occurred in Melbourne at Prince Henry’s Hospital.
  • Melbourne’s ALSO Foundation established a Health Subcommittee to look at the new reports coming from the USA about AIDS.


  • The Victorian AIDS Council was launched at a public meeting in December, along with its first education campaign, which included a poster (Great Sex! Don’t Let AIDS Spoil It), a brochure (AIDS, Trying to Reduce the Risk) and a badge (Safe Sex) with a big red tick.


  • Victorian AIDS Council gained funding to establish a HIV/AIDS specialist medical clinic. The Gay Men’s Community Health Centre, later to become the Gay Men’s Health Centre, was incorporated to run this service.
  • The first Support Volunteer Care Team was established.


  • The Victorian AIDS Council’s David Williams Fund was established to provide support to improve the financial, health and emotional wellbeing of people living with HIV.
  • Fairfield Hospital staff provided the first training program for the Victorian AIDS Council and other volunteers to care for people with HIV at home.


  • A new treatment emerged that was hailed as the first big step in beating HIV/AIDS.
  • The drug Retrovir (AZT, Zidovudine) began to be used to treat people infected with HIV.
  • The rate of AIDS cases was increasing sharply and there was demand for home care, nursing, counselling, transport and financial aid.


  • A Joint Advisory Committee was established to decide policy for the Victorian AIDS Council and the Gay Men’s Community Health Centre and to integrate the organisations. In July Alan Hough was appointed the first General Manager of VAC/GMCHC, providing a single management structure.
  • December 1, the first annual World AIDS Day proposed by the World Health Organisation was held to focus attention on fighting the disease. Australia participated. The theme was ‘A World United Against AIDS’.
  • The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt project was established and first displayed on World AIDS Day.
  • The Gay Men’s Community Health Centre clinic opened for business.


  • The controversial ‘When You Say Yes’ campaign with the famous ‘two boys kissing’ poster was released, promoting safe sex to young gay men.
  • We signed a formal partnership agreement with the Royal District Nursing Service bringing clinical resources to clients, volunteers and staff via our Community Support Program.


  • In Victoria there were huge public protests against the possible closure of Fairfield Hospital, which continued to provide care for people with HIV/AIDS in a unique and non-stigmatising way.
  • Our staff and volunteers joined the protests.


  • The drug Hivid, used with AZT, marked the beginning of HIV/AIDS combination therapies.


  • The Positive Living Centre housing the Gay Men’s Community Health Centre clinic opened in St Kilda.
  • HIV/AIDS Legal Centre was established by us to provide free legal advice to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Over 800 people had been diagnosed with HIV in Victoria by this time, and our Community Support Program had provided over 600 individual care teams and other support.


  • Legislation in Victoria made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of HIV/AIDS infection.
  • The International AIDS Conference in Vancouver highlighted benefits of early intervention, combination therapy and viral load testing, which measured the concentration of virus particles in the blood.
  • Despite years of protest action, Fairfield Hospital was closed.
  • The Alfred Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital officially took over the HIV/AIDS services.
  • Treatment options took another step forward with the introduction of powerful HIV fighting drugs called Protease Inhibitors. The use of these drugs with existing HIV/AIDS drugs proved effective in controlling HIV.


  • Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), consisting of three or more anti-retroviral drugs, replaced the expression ‘triple combination therapy’ and became the new standard of HIV care in response to the ‘hit early, hit hard’ strategy.
  • HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) became available as a treatment for the prevention of HIV for those who may have been exposed to HIV.


  • An invaluable partnership and working relationship with MAC Cosmetics began and continues to provide funding for our David Williams Fund.


  • The Positive Living Centre moved to the newly renovated Braille Library, providing a much larger space and enhanced services for people living with HIV/AIDS.


  • Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria was established and managed by a consortium which included us along with the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health & Society and Women’s Health Victoria.


  • Worldwide, 40.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. 4.9 million people were newly infected in 2005.


  • Drama Downunder was launched and has been one of our most successful sexual health social marketing campaigns.


  • We became a founding member of the National LGBT Health Alliance, a peak national organisation established to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT people in Australia.


  • We celebrated 25 years of achievements.


  • We launched a new website.


  • We celebrated our 30th anniversary with the publication of the book and website "Under the Red Ribbon".