Article Title:Don't be afraid to shake it
Category:People
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:17th November 2011 - 01:53 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
NDHA link:http://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/ArcAggregator/arcView/frameView/IE24797504/http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/33/article_11062.php
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Story ID:11062
Text:First-time World AIDS Day collector Baz Bloomfield is fronting up with a bucket this year and he is putting the call out for other gay men to get over the "fear factor" of standing on a street corner and join the collectors. Bloomfield has been a New Zealand AIDS Foundation volunteer since the early 1990s, when he arranged benefit concerts in Hamilton. He also spent time caring for the unwell. "It was a sad time. People needed to be looked after," he recalls. "But members of the community just got in behind the effort." He doesn't believe he was very good at being a caregiver, saying he became too attached to people and emotional about their situations. "But I was good at directing stage shows," he laughs. Bloomfield says with the NZAF needing plenty of volunteers for its World AIDS Day street appeal next Friday 25 November, his time to step up has come once again. "I've been a member of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation for a long time and you're on the mailing list and get the 'please we need help', and they needed help this year, so I put my hand up." As he is a 'newbie' collector Bloomfield says he'll be paired with someone experienced which is easing his mind, as he is nervous about the prospect of standing on the street with a bucket. His hesitations have been based around concern in regards to the stigma that remains, even on K' Rd and Ponsonby Rd, "there's still that perception out there that only homosexuals get AIDS and they're this and they're that," he says. "And we're still being belted around ... there's still anger out there towards the gay community. We're still being discriminated against." Bloomfield is calling for others to join the ranks of both straight and gay people collecting, saying there is strength in numbers. "Even though the gay community has the highest percentage, there are all sorts of people out there collecting for the common good. I think for many people that I know, gay men, that there's a 'fear factor'. That there's discrimination out there, and they don't want to get a punch on the nose ... however it's safety in numbers," he says, adding there is a get-together early next week for collectors to discuss what's expected. "It's all for a good cause and you meet likeminded people," he says. "And it makes you feel good. It makes you feel good to be part of." Also collecting for the first time will be the New Zealand AIDS Foundation's new Executive Director Shaun Robinson, who says the excitement has been building steadily. "I’m really looking forward to it. I’m amazed at how much our staff and regular volunteers are buzzing about this day," he says. "The last three years have had perfect weather - dry, but not too hot - and everyone says that the public response is exceptionally positive. People stop to share a story and have a laugh, and we have a very helpful, fun and enthusiastic bunch of collectors too.” It will be the first time the NZAF and the National Collective will stand together to raise both awareness and funds, with the proceeds to be shared 50/50 between the Collective's Wellness Fund and the NZAF’s Health Services. However the camaraderie and enjoyment on the day belie a serious need. Earlier this year, figures from the AIDS Epidemiology Group at the University of Otago showed a record number of 95 new HIV diagnoses among New Zealand’s gay and bisexual men. The previous peak for gay and bisexual men was 93 in 2008. "If you see us out, please stop, say hi and drop a few coins in the bucket if you can," Robinson says. Volunteers will receive advice and support, lunch and refreshments, t-shirts and transport to and from collection areas. Anyone who can help can sign up at www.nzaf.org.nz/volunteer or to call Akira Le Fevre in Christchurch on 03 379 1953, Don Barclay in Wellington on 04 381 6640 or Gavin Ring in Auckland on 09 300 6955.     Jacqui Stanford - 17th November 2011
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