Policy & Research


We’re here to work with legislators, policymakers and service providers to help them understand and address the needs of sexuality and gender diverse people and people living with HIV.


Incorporated in 1985 as the AIDS Council of NSW, ACON is widely recognised as an innovative and successful organisation which has adapted to changes in the HIV epidemic and responded early to emerging health issues among our communities.

Since our inception, we’ve been at the forefront of advocacy around issues relating to HIV and to sexuality and gender diverse health, drawing on our close connections to community to identify emerging issues and create dialogue around these issues with policy makers and researchers.

Our Policy, Strategy and Research team responds to current issues in HIV policy and legislation, developing better strategies for advocacy to reduce stigma and improve access to the best methods of prevention, testing and treatment available.

Our policy work is evidence-based and research driven, addressing a broad range of policy issues affecting people living with or affected by HIV. These include:

  • Priorities and targets in the NSW and National government HIV Strategies.
  • Changes in the NSW health system that impact people living with, or at risk of HIV.
  • Access to the best biomedical interventions for people at risk of HIV transmission, including PrEP and PEP.
  • Access to a variety of effective and appropriate HIV testing services, including HIV self–tests and rapid HIV tests.
  • Access to education, testing and treatment for all LGBTQ+ people in NSW.
  • Access to care and support for people living with, or affected by, HIV.
  • Any aspect of policy or legislation affecting the goal of achieving virtual elimination of HIV in NSW.

To find out more please contact our Policy, Strategy and Research team at policy@acon.org.au.


Policy Statements and Submissions:

Discussion Papers:

Discrimination and Human Rights

Policy Statements and Submissions:

ACON has made a number of submissions relating to hate crimes. You can read more about those here.

Domestic and Family Violence

Policy Statements and Submissions:

NSW Pre-Budget Submissions


ACON engages in advocacy that aligns with our values and works to improve health outcomes for our communities.

NSW State Election

In the lead up to the 2023 NSW State Election, ACON worked alongside a coalition of organisations including BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, Equality Australia, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), Hepatitis NSW, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), Positive Life NSW, HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) and Twenty10, to produce the NSW Election 2023: Candidates Questionnaire which was distributed to the major parties and independent candidates prior to the election. The questionnaire outlined 39 key commitments necessary in improving the health, human rights, and safety of people in our communities and we invited the major parties and independent candidates to provide their position in relation to each of these key commitments. You can access their responses below:

Read Alex Greenwich’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read the Greens NSW’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read NSW Labor’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read the Liberals’ response to the Questionnaire here

Following these responses, ACON and its partners organisations hosted a live public community forum to give representative candidates from across the political spectrum the opportunity to elaborate on their responses to the questionnaire and answer questions from the audience.

A recording of that event can be viewed here.

ACON will use this questionnaire, and the NSW Labor response, to provide a roadmap for engaging with NSW Government on key reforms in the next term of Parliament.

Mandatory Disease Testing

Policy Statements and Submissions:

You can read more about Mandatory Testing Orders here.

The Mandatory Disease Testing Act is scheduled to be reviewed in 2023.


We’re are here to promote and support HIV and LGBTQ health related research in NSW.

ACON Ethics Committee

ACON welcomes opportunities to collaborate with researchers, participate in research and promote projects that align with our organisation’s values, programs and priorities.

Research is fundamental to inform and improve health promotion and services for people of diverse genders and sexualities (LGBTQ+) and people living with HIV. We believe that research that meaningfully involves people with lived experience throughout the research project lifecycle, from development to implementation and feedback to community, is essential and generates greater insights into and for our communities.

Research projects must go through a robust ethics review process before they can be promoted by ACON.

ACON’s dedicated Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC) is made of independent researchers and health experts who provide ethical guidance to ACON and researchers with a view to ensuring that any project we promote benefits our communities and ACON. The RERC reviews the extent of community consultations and involvement, the appropriateness of language, indicators and survey questions, the potential benefits and risks to participants.


What projects require ACON ethics approval?

Research projects seeking ACON’s endorsement, or access to ACON’s support and resources, are required to attain approval from the ACON Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC). This includes:

  • Projects that seek survey promotion support from ACON (e.g., sharing a survey on ACON’s social media and mailing lists, promoting a research study through the distribution of flyers).
  • Projects that seek the participation of ACON staff in research.
  • Projects that specifically target sexuality and gender diverse populations (LGBTQ+), either as their sole sample group or as an identified sub-sample.
  • Projects that specifically target people living with HIV, those who provide care and support for people living with HIV, and priority populations for HIV prevention.

How does the ACON ethics approval process work?

There are three essential steps:

1. Contact research@acon.org.au for a short pre-assessment

Due to the high number of applications we receive, the ACON Research Ethics Review Committee’s Chair and Secretariat conduct a pre-assessment of your project and its alignment with ACON’s research priorities and programs. We will consider:

  • The project’s suitability and alignment with ACON’s research priorities and programs.
  • The age of participants (ACON generally does not promote research involving participants under the age of 18).
  • Whether the project is already being promoted and/or recruitment is underway.
  • The research experience and lived experience of the researchers (ACON generally does not promote honour’s degree research projects, unless the applicant has demonstrated that the project is of exceptional quality and benefit to our communities).
  • ACON’s capacity to promote the research.

You do not need to fill out an application form at this stage. Simply provide a brief description of your project and the kind of support you need, and we will get back to you to advise on next steps.

2. Fill out an application form

Before submitting your application, please consider reviewing the following key points:

  • Sexuality, gender and intersex indicators – please refer to ACON’s recommended Community Indicators for Research. The RERC generally does not approve studies that do not include appropriate indicators.
  • List of Support Services – Please ensure any listed support services are known to be LGBTQ inclusive and that it is clearly indicated whether the service is appointment-based or available 24 hours
  • The extent and appropriateness of consultation with affected populations.

Download: ACON Ethics Committee Application Form

3. Implement the ACON RERC’s recommendations, if applicable

Once your project is reviewed, you will be advised of the outcome in writing. The four possible outcomes are:

  • Approval: the proposal is approved as submitted.
  • Approval after amendments or clarifications: The proposal is approved subject to the provision of clarifications to the RERC.
  • Deferment: The proposal is not approved as submitted, but it can be reassessed if the applicant chooses to resubmit the application with changes asked by the RERC.
  • Declined: The proposal is not approved as submitted.

If you receive an outcome that requires implementing the RERC’s recommendations, we will advise you on the necessary steps to progress your application.

When should I submit an application form for ACON ethics review?

Make sure to contact research@acon.org.au before filling out the application form. Our team will conduct a pre-assessment to ensure your project aligns with our priorities and capacity.

For University-based research, please apply to ACON’s ethics review after receiving approval from University ethics (or other NHMRC-registered ethics body).  

Meeting Dates
Wednesday 7th  February 2024 Wednesday 21st February 2024
Wednesday 6th March 2024 Wednesday 20th March 2024
Wednesday 3rd April 2024 Wednesday 17th April 2024
Wednesday 1st May 2024 Wednesday 22nd May 2024
Wednesday 5th June 2024 Wednesday 19st June 2024
Wednesday 3rd July 2024 Wednesday 17th July 2024
Wednesday 7th August 2024 Wednesday 21st August 2024
Wednesday 4th September 2024 Wednesday 18th September 2024
Wednesday 2nd October 2024 Wednesday 16th October 2024
Wednesday 6sh November 2024 Wednesday 20th November 2024
Wednesday 4th December 2024 Wednesday 11th December 2024


Recommended Community Indicators for Research

Through extensive consultation with our communities and research experts, we have developed the following sexuality, gender and intersex related indicators. We recommend the use of these questions as a minimum in all research projects focused on LGBTIQ+ people.

ACON also endorses the use of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Standard on Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables for wider population (non-LGBTIQ+ specific) research. The ABS Standards are available here.

Research projects which seek ACON ethics approval and do not use the ACON Recommended Community Indicators or the ABS Standards are unlikely to receive approval unless they demonstrate a strong rationale for not doing so.

You can download a PDF of the above guide here.

ACON’s Research Priorities

Research is key to improving the health of people living with HIV and people of diverse genders and sexualities. It helps us better understand our communities’ needs, design effective programs and advocate for policy change to improve health outcomes.

We believe that people in our communities should be meaningfully included in research – from the choice of research topics to recruitment, analysis, and community feedback.

ACON’s Research Priorities guide ACON’s research activities, including the development of new partnerships. Our focus is on ensuring the projects we support have the greatest benefit for our communities and relevance to our programs. We welcome research that addresses knowledge gaps and emerging health issues as outlined by our Research Priorities, available here.

To find out more about ACON’s research priorities please contact research@acon.org.au.

SWASH – The Sydney Women and Sexual Health Survey


The Sydney Women and Sexual Health (SWASH) survey was first carried out in 1996. It was initiated by workers from two ACON projects, Women Partners of Gay and Bisexual Men and the Gay and Lesbian Injecting Drug Use Project, who were faced with a lack of empirical evidence on which to base their intervention work. Research on the health and wellbeing of lesbian, bisexual and queer women (cis and trans) is still scarce.

SWASH is now a comprehensive survey of sexual and gender identity; community connection; smoking, alcohol and drug use; sexual health; psychological wellbeing; experiences of anti-gay, sexual and domestic violence; parenthood intentions; preventive health behaviour including screening; healthcare access and satisfaction.

The survey is run every two years by a collaboration of ACON and researchers at the University of Sydney.

For more information and research on the health of women (cis and trans) in Australia, visit The Australian Women’s Health Network’s Women’s Health Hub online library and ACON’s TransHub.

The latest 2020 SWASH report in available here.

Previous SWASH reports:

Sydney GBQ+ Community Periodic Survey

The Sydney GBQ+ Community Periodic Survey (SGCPS) is a short survey that investigates the sexual practices, drug use, and health service engagement of gay, bisexual and queer men (cis and trans) and non-binary people who have sex with GBQ+ men. The findings are used to guide HIV and sexual health programs. It is conducted every year in February and March (corresponding with the Mardi Gras period). The SGCPS complements data from other studies and provides valuable information for HIV health promotion efforts. The SGCPS is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health.

ACON runs SGCPS in partnership with Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH), UNSW. Click here to view SGCPS reports on CSRH website.

To find out more please contact Angus Molyneux at amolyneux@acon.org.au.