1995 in the AJN: Fighting prejudice against AIDS sufferers

[From Trove and the Australian Jewish News]

Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 20 October 1995, page 23

Fighting prejudice against AIDS sufferers

Jackie Brygel talks to Tammi Faraday about how she reconciles her religious beliefs with her work on the Victorian AIDS Council.

Tammi Faraday: helping to universalise the AIDS issue. Photo: Lex Mrocki

AS A YOUNG Orthodox Jew working in a voluntary capacity for the Victorian AIDS Council, Tammi Faraday has often been forced to defend her job.

For the 20-year-old Leibler-Yavneh graduate, however, there is no conflict between her religion and her work.

“I have been asked how, as a religious Jew, I can work for an organisation that is condoning homosexuality,” she said, in an interview with the Australian Jewish News. “First of all, my position on homosexuality is absolutely inconsequential to the cause; Regardless of what I feel, it is not for me to judge.

“We talk of God and we talk of mercy and compassion and all these other things that people very easily forget. Ritualism is very important, but I think the essence of religion often gets lost.”

Ms Faraday said that homosexuality was “problematic” within the Torah. But by the same token, she added, the saving of a life is a fundamental precept in the Jewish religion.

“We should perpetuate that by helping people and by educating people. And it is not just gays who are affected (by AIDS).

“I think there is a syndrome in the Jewish community of being very judgmental. People should be embraced. Thank God, the incidence of AIDS is not huge within the Jewish community, but I don’t think that anybody has the right to disenfranchise a person or to make a person feel remote or ostracised. It is an issue that has to be dealt with.”’

Ms Faraday, who is currently studying law/arts at Monash University, has also been asked why she has not channelled her energies into Jewish causes. It is a question to which she has taken umbrage.

“To me, AIDS is a human cause,” she said. “It is a Jewish cause as much as any other cause. I am a very proud Jew who wears Judaism on my sleeve. But we are human and we are not immune to this disease.”

Ms Faraday first developed an interest in AIDS at the age of 14 when she read a book on a haemophiliac who had contracted the HIV infection through a blood transfusion. After spending eight months studying at the Hebrew University in Israel, she approached the Victorian AIDS Council in April this year.

Ms Faraday is now public relations officer for the Council’s Red Ribbon Project. Red ribbons, the international symbol for AIDS awareness, will be sold by shops, businesses and street sellers for World AIDS Day on December 1. All proceeds from the red ribbons go towards the support of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS.

“I was very nervous to come back to Australia after living in Israel,” Ms Faraday said. “I had been very fulfilled there and all my senses had been on overload every minute of the day.

“When I came back, I wanted to throw myself into an organisation where I felt I could provide some expertise and do something positive to help others.”

Ms Faraday also believed there were many misconceptions about AIDS with many Australians still referring to it as the ‘gay plague’.

“That is not the case,” she said. “It’s a universal disease and it doesn’t discriminate. I felt that as someone who was Jewish and a woman and a minority in this organisation, I would be able to help universalise the issue.

“Now the figures show that AIDS is decreasing slowly in the gay population, but increasing substantially in the heterosexual population… Twenty million people have been infected with the (HIV) virus thus far around the world. It is the highest killer of 22 to 44-year old Americans. It is an epidemic we are facing.”

Ms Faraday conceded she initially felt like the “odd one out” at the Council, but quickly found her niche.

“The environment here is so warm, friendly, loving and supportive. It’s a wonderful environment to work in.

“I wanted to ensure I confronted the disease head-on and be knowledgeable about it so I was not prejudiced in any way, shape or form. Knowledge is the key.”

ajn-19951020-p23-HIV

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