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Critical Care Nurses on the frontline of Australia's AIDS crisis : Nurses on the frontline of Australia's AIDS crisis - Geraldine Fela

Critical Care Nurses on the frontline of Australia's AIDS crisis

Nurses on the frontline of Australia's AIDS crisis

By: Geraldine Fela

Paperback | 1 July 2024

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HIV and AIDS devastated communities across Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. In the midst of this profound health crisis, nurses provided crucial care to those living with and dying from the virus. They negotiated homophobia and complex family dynamics as well as defending the rights of their patients.

Bringing together stories from across the country, historian Geraldine Fela documents the extraordinary care, compassion and solidarity shown by HIV and AIDS nurses. Critical Care unearths the important and unexamined history of nurses and nursing unions as caregivers and political agents who helped shape Australia's response to HIV and AIDS.

'Drawing on the frontline experience of nurses, Fela has written an insightful and moving history of the tragedy and triumphs of Australia's response to the AIDS epidemic.' Dennis Altman, Vice Chancellor's Fellow, La Trobe University

'Critical Care shows how Australia's AIDS crisis aroused fear, hatred and homophobia and yet forged new bonds of care, community and love. This beautifully told story of the nursing profession's response to acute suffering and great tragedy borne predominantly by gay men is among the most moving Australian histories I have read. It will be essential for anyone interested in health, the professions, gender, sexuality and the shifting emotional landscape of the nation.' Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, Australian National University

'This outstanding book chronicles the role of nurses in addressing the AIDS pandemic, after the arrival of HIV. The old approach to epidemics was strict control and isolation. But something new was required by the nature of this unexpected crisis. Fortunately, in Australasia, healthcare professionals and lawmakers rose to the occasion. The special challenge of coping with patients needing care, often when they were profoundly sick and dying; where no vaccine was available; and no drugs were effective at first to turn the tide, put huge pressure on nurses on the front line. They helped lead our community to address the AIDS paradox. This book tells a heroic story. I honour the author and those whose work she describes so that their lessons will not be forgotten.' The Hon. Michael Kirby, Past Justice of The High Court of Australia and Patron of The Kirby Institute

'As well as being a pleasure to read, this book shines new light on previously hidden stories in the Australian HIV response; that of nurses, trade unions and First Nations people. Fela's insightful narrative brings to life the unique and vital role played by nurses who provided care in environments that were too often marked by intense fear and shame.' Jennifer Power, Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow, La Trobe University

'In this insightful book, Geraldine Fela revisits the Australian response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and unearths the important and untold contribution of nurses. Nurses were on the frontlines of care during the epidemic and Fela beautifully brings forth their experiences, perspectives and voices. In her attention to labour history, gender and the impact of colonisation, Fela highlights less-told stories of the epidemic that help us re-evaluate the Australian response to HIV/AIDS. This is an important and often moving book.' Robert Reynolds, Professor of Modern History, Macquarie University

'In the worst years of the AIDS crisis, nurses were the frontline of healthcare. Geraldine Fela's compelling, myth-busting book shows how Australian nurses challenged stigma and transformed healthcare relationships and practices. Fela illuminates different healthcare approaches across states, and between city and country, and how nurses ensured effective responses to HIV in Indigenous communities.' Alistair Thomson, President Oral History Australia and Emeritus Professor in History, Monash University

'In this marvellous book, Geraldine Fela reveals the day-to-day work of nurses and their unions in responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Australia. Through interviews and archival research, she shows how in caring, educating, advocating, they saved lives, eased suffering and reshaped our medical system from the ground up.' Graham Willett, Historian, Arch-tivist, Publisher

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