Established in 1983, the ACT AIDS Action Committee was formed by a group of gay men living in Canberra to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ACT. This group then formalised and incorporated in 1986 as the AIDS Action Council of the ACT. Within a year of being established, the Council recognised the need to work closely with the many impacted communities. Specific projects were established for gay men, injecting drug users, sex workers and people with haemophilia. Care teams, treatment information and counseling were provided to people with HIV and AIDS and their significant others. From the beginning, the very foundations of the Council have been a strength of lived experience and connection to the community. The organisation has continued to evolve in response to the epidemic with a robust evidence base for community awareness, information and advocacy.
This evolution of the organisation and connection to community has included a broadening of the portfolio to serve the health needs of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) communities to ensure all gender, sex, and sexually diverse individuals, families and communities. Today we prevent adverse impacts on all our communities and celebrate and empower what makes us who we are.
In 2020 after extensive consultation, the organisation made the bold decision to change names, from AIDS Action Council to Meridian.
The word 'meridian' has many different meanings, and all of them help tell the story of who we are and what we represent: community, health, and action. Meridian lines show us when and where we are in the world – they give us a sense of place. Our vital energy travels along the meridian lines in our bodies, and a meridian achievement is performance at its peak. For us, this means establishing and maintaining balance and always striving for improvement, in our bodies, minds, and communities.
Our new name also pays homage to Canberra’s first and only community-owned, community-led social organisation for LGBTIQ+ communities – the Meridian Club. A friendly space that hosted many community events and activities, the Meridian Club lives on in spirit through our new identity.
HIV prevention and treatment and support for people living with and impacted by HIV are still central to our mission. But with a new name, we’ve made space for the many other programs and services we provide, and all the people that could benefit from them. We want everyone who uses our services to feel part of a bigger community. A hub of community connection and service provision, Meridian is where people with different identities and needs come together. It’s a place where everyone belongs.
We offer healthcare services and programs to people of diverse identities and experiences, including people of diverse sexualities, gender identities, and sex characteristics, people from diverse cultural backgrounds including those who have sought asylum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, sex workers, and people who use drugs. We support mainstream service providers and organisations to deliver LGBTIQ+ inclusive and competent services. We drive advocacy and awareness campaigns and contribute to research. And we deliver tailor-made training and education programs, calling on our lived experience and expertise to improve the broader community’s understanding of HIV, sex and gender diversity, stigma and discrimination, inclusivity, and sex work.
Today the purpose of Meridian is to create opportunities for our communities to live their healthiest lives and be their true selves. Our vision for the future of the organisation is to ensure strong, connected and supportive communities; free of new HIV transmissions, marginalisation, discrimination and stigma.