In Memoriam, Vivienne Munro

In Memoriam, Vivienne Munro

HIV Australia | Vol. 12 No. 2 | July 2014

Vivienne Munro was a pioneer of Australia’s early HIV response, much loved and admired for her contribution to Australia’s community response and support for HIV-positive women. Vivienne passed away in May 2014.

Below, some of Vivienne’s colleagues and friends pay tribute to her life and work.

A true hero

Vivienne Munro was a courageous pioneering woman living with HIV. In the late 80s, Vivienne set up the first Positive Women’s group in Sydney. Vivienne was then instrumental in being the first women specific peer support worker at ACON (a position which no longer exists). Vivien was a wonderful advocate to ensure women living with HIV  had a voice in the aids dialogue.

In the nineties, Vivienne was the Asia-Pacific regional representative for ICW (International Community for Women Living with HIV/AIDS).  In this role, Vivienne worked tirelessly by providing peer support and training for women living with HI  and was a great advocate for the rights of women.

Vivienne’s legacy will live on. She will be sadly missed by her children, family friends and colleagues. I, for one, will miss her as we often worked together locally, regionally and internationally, where we inspired each other as well as having fun. Her motivation was always for the care and support of others particularly women living with HIV.

Bye Vivienne, you were a true hero.

– Bev Greet

A key role

Vivienne Munro was involved in the response to HIV since the 1980s. One of the first women in NSW to be open about her HIV status, she played a key role in the ACON HIV Support Project and the early years of what was then PWA(NSW) (which became PLWHA(NSW) and then Positive Life NSW.

Vivienne was involved in setting up HIV support and networks for women in NSW. She also got involved in the international HIV movement – and for a period was involved with the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. She was on the committee of Positive Life a number of times, serving as Co-Convener and Secretary and contributed to some of its working groups in particular the Talkabout Editorial Group.

Vivienne’s partner died of HIV before effective treatments arrived. She has two children – Tasman and Larna. Vivienne has been living on the NSW Central Coast for a number of years. A tireless and energetic advocate of people living with HIV, Vivienne made a major contribution to the Australian response to HIV and the support of women living with HIV.

The staff and board of Positive Life NSW extend our condolences to Vivienne’s family and loved ones and our sincere gratitude for her work.

 – Positive Live NSW

A woman like you

The first time I saw Vivienne was in a poster she was part of with five other women and the caption said, ‘Some of us are HIV positive’ with a tag line, ‘HIV positive women are women like you’. It was a promotion for the HIV Women’s Project in NSW at ACON. Then I met Viv and many other women like Bev and Amelia, and it was a turning point for me and had a huge impact on how I took on my new  peer support role in SA back in 1998. I commenced my journey of challenging HIV-related stigma and the courage came from their first steps

– Katherine Leane

‘She’s off, she cried …’

When we first got internal email at ACON, I remember sending one to tell everyone that I was leaving for the day. Without thinking much about it, I used the phrase: “She’s off, she cried, and waved her wooden leg”. Viv emailed back immediately saying “I think I’m the only one who has the right to claim that!”

– Adrian Ogier

An important and active voice

She was a very important and active voice in the early stages of the pandemic, especially alerting us all that HIV/AIDS was a threat to women as well as to men.

– Dave Urquhart

Integrity and courage

Vivienne Munro was on the editorial working group of Talkabout, the newsletter of People Living with AIDS (Now Positive Life NSW), when I was editor in the early 1990s. She was probably one of the first openly HIV-positive women that I met. I admired Viv’s integrity and courage in those early years of the epidemic, when very few positive women felt able to make the choices that she did in confronting stigma, supporting the PLWHA movement, and living her life to the full.

I feel lucky to have known her, and appreciate the support and advice she gave when I was editing Talkabout and new to the world of HIV. I don’t remember her name appearing in print very often but she was there behind the scenes, contributing ideas, explaining issues, finding women for me to interview, and with her dry sense of humour, sometimes making me laugh about things that had really felt quite serious up to that point.  I remember her as a woman of great optimism, passion, kindness and hope.

– Jill Sergeant