Meeting unmet needs
Friday, 2 December 2016
World AIDS Day, held on 1 December each year, raises awareness in the community about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. It is a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
Through their commitment to meeting unmet needs, The Sisters of Mercy played an important role in the history of HIV and AIDS in Queensland.
In 1986 Mater went against public and government sentiment to commence provision of social and medical services for these patients.
The Sisters gave the Queensland AIDS Council a house behind the Mater Hospital in South Brisbane to accommodate people living with HIV/AIDS who were visiting Brisbane for medical reasons.
Sister Angela Mary said the political climate at the time was completely opposed to helping those with HIV and AIDS.
“The Sisters of Mercy were founded for the poor, the sick and anyone disadvantaged. We knew our time had come to declare our hand. As the public face of the Mater at that time, I told the Queensland AIDS Council that I wanted to offer any assistance they needed and that we could provide. This began a long friendship with those men.”
Sister Dorothea Sheehan, a former Director of Nursing at the Mater Children’s Hospital, retired from her role in 1989 and devoted the rest of her life to caring for people with HIV and AIDS.
“I suppose my involvement with babies that died with the virus was one of the starting points in my interest but I think I was drawn to these people because they were needing help, needing care and there weren’t too many people offering them this at the time.”
People with HIV/AIDS, and their family and friends, recieved love and support from Sister Dorothea. She delighted in helping 'my boys', as she called them, using her public speaking and media skills, giving talks on HIV/AIDS to various groups around Brisbane.
Sister Dorothea was presented with an appreciation award for her outstanding contribution to the HIV/AIDS community in Queensland at The Allen St Centre and in 1994 she was made an honorary life member of the Queensland AIDS Council.
Mater continues to walk in the footsteps of the Sisters of Mercy, through its dedication to social innovation, seeking out and finding innovative solutions for unmet needs in our community.
*Photos and details courtesy of Mater Archives and Heritage Centre including articles byThe Catholic Leader, Queensland AIDS Council and Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame
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Tags: AIDS, community, Sisters of Mercy