Mackay becomes Council's patron

Loss of brothers behind Canberra businessman's move to help the AIDS Action Council of the ACT. Speaking at this years AIDS Action Counci AGM, high-profile Canberra businessman John Mackay said the pain of losing two brothers to AIDS was behind a move to try to reduce the stigma around HIV in the ACT. 

Mr Mackay has been appointed the inaugural patron of the ACT AIDS Action Council.

Mr Mackay lost two brothers to AIDS over six weeks in the late 1980s. One brother was among the first 10 people diagnosed in Australia. 

"The community at that stage thought that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuals and drug takers," Mr Mackay said.

"We've moved a long way from that now and I plan to help the council move even further."

Mr Mackay said the impact of AIDS on his family had given him an insight into the suffering of patients and their loved ones.

"It's instilled me with a lifetime of compassion, seeing not only my brothers going through AIDS in the very early days ... but watching my dear old Mum and the rest of my family and the absolute pain and ache in their hearts," he said.

"Particularly my Mum, growing up in a country town ... even the concept of being gay I don't think was accepted or understood in those days.

"So if you were gay and a drug taker and, you know, living in this strange community then you were basically an outcast.

"I don't think my parents had much opportunity to talk with people who would understand, whereas today they would."

Plans to use contacts to help fight discrimination

Mr Mackay has worked in various high-profile roles in Canberra over the past 20 years, including as Chancellor of the University of Canberra and chief executive of ActewAGL.

He said he was proud to be able to help the council support people living with HIV and combat discrimination.

"I've dealt with AIDS in my lifetime, I know how tough that was and this is the least I can do to help that community," he said.

''The problem's not going away. It's not as bad as it was in the mid '80s but there are still new cases being diagnosed regularly."

Mr Mackay said he hoped to be able to open doors around Canberra for the council.

"I've built up a fantastic range of contacts in local government, federal government and business in the ACT," he said.

"I hope to apply all of those to my new role."

RELATED NEWS: Canberra Times: John Mackay named inaugural ACT AIDS Action Council patron.

When two of Canberra business magnate John Mackay's younger brothers succumbed to AIDS within six weeks of each other, the only bright spot was the way their friends and community groups gathered around to support them in their time of darkness.

"It was at a time when AIDS was very new to Australia, one of my brothers was in the first five or 10 people diagnosed in this country and people were terrified of it, they didn't understand it," Mr Mackay said. Read more

Tags: HIV/AIDS

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