I am one of the Principal solicitors at HALC, every day I feel privileged to be able to help the amazing HALC clients.
In Australia, approximately 10% of people living with HIV are women, but at HALC 30% of our clients are women. This is because women have specific vulnerabilities and their circumstances are often made more complex because of factors such as domestic violence, societal pressures and motherhood; I am constantly amazed at the resilience and strength that my female clients show in the face of tremendous adversity.
One of these clients is Suzie*. Suzie is from Uganda, she is a Finance Manager and was sponsored by an employer on a temporary work visa in 2009. 3 years ago Suzie was happily living and working hard in regional Queensland and had a loving partner from Australia, she then found out that she was expecting a baby – Suzie was happy. When Suzie went for routine prenatal testing she was diagnosed with HIV.
Her whole world began to crumble – how could she be HIV positive? She was in a committed relationship and had been tested for HIV for her visa before she came to Australia. Suzie then learnt that her Australian partner had been cheating on her and that she had contracted HIV from him.
Distressed by everything that was going on Suzie confided in her close friend and work colleague. Her friend said that they didn’t want to be anywhere near her, they told her that she better abort her baby – even though in Australia the baby would be born health – and then the friend told everyone in the work place about her HIV diagnosis. Suzie was given her own special cup and plate and cutlery to use at work and told that she had to keep it separate and not ever put it in the work dishwasher.
At the end of her contract although the employer was happy with Suzie’s work they refused to renew the contract and with it her visa sponsorship.
Suzie was terrified to return to Uganda, she had watched countless others in her community die from AIDS and knew that her fate would be the same. She didn’t want to leave her baby in Australia and at the same time she was scared about what would happen if she returned to Uganda and she died and her baby, an Australian citizen, was left without a mother.
Three years ago Suzie called me, she was scared and alone, and she asked for helped – just a few weeks ago she was granted permanent residency through Ministerial Intervention. Unless you can help ensure we #leavenoonebehind , if someone like Suzie walked into our office today we may not be able to help.
*names of clients have been changed to respect and protect their confidentiality
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