(l-r)Haupuru Makiri (son of Aunty Wai Mason), kaumatua Daniel Nehemia, Michael Bancroft, Lady Janine and Sir Jerry Mateparae, Dame Cath Tizard, Tony Hughes and Kevin Hague. More than 100 years of commitment to the fight against the spread of HIV and the support of infected people were marked this evening when the Governor General awarded four NZ AIDS Foundation life memberships. "These are people who stepped forward and took up the fight, who have shown commitment and contributed passion to the AIDS Foundation's work," Governor General and NZAF patron Sir Jerry Mateparae said, before noting that their combined years of involvement exceeded 100 years. He recounted the early days of the then-deadly epidemic, when Michael Bancroft, Kevin Hague, Tony Hughes and the late Aunty Wai Mason began their determination to help prevent the spread of HIV and work alongside those whose lives became blighted by resulting illnesses. "They have all showed commitment, service and humanity," Sir Jerry said. At the Government House, Auckland, ceremony attended by people involved in HIV work including past-Governor General and NZAF patron Dame Cath Tizard, Michael Bancroft was described by NZAF Trust Board Chair Andrew Sweet as "a tirelessly strong and consistent advocate" since the late 1980s for people and communities affected by HIV. His founding of the Catholic AIDS Ministry and more recent responsibility for the care of the AIDS Memorial Quilts were amongst his work singled our for praise. Green MP Kevin Hague, a one-time Executive Director of the NZAF, has worked since 1988, both within and outside the NZAF," Sweet said, "to empower the glbti community and increase the resilience of the communities most at risk of HIV infection." Tony Hughes, who began guiding the organisation's HIV prevention strategies exactly 29 years ago today "does work which is crucial as today as the role he undertook advocating for the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform Act and subsequent anti-discrimination legislation," both of which Sweet said had "a profound effect" on the ability of the NZAF to run its HIV awareness and prevention campaigns. NZAF kaumatua Aunty Wai Mason, who died two months ago, was "the face of the HIV prevention cause on many marae," Sweet told the approximately 100 people who gathered in the Government House garden pavilion. "Aunty Wai promoted HIV awareness, anti-discrimination and anti-prejudice messages and condom use to communities that often found these topics challenging," he said. Her award was accepted by family members. Although Tony Hughes is the first person ever to still be an employee of the NZAF when honoured with a life membership, Sweet says he feels it was "appropriate to honour his particularly outstanding contribution... he is an extraordinary and clearly special case." Tomorrow morning collectors will hit the streets throughout the country to raise money for non-government funded HIV prevention work and for the support of financially distressed people, mostly gay men, struggling with their HIV infection. The honours and street collection are part of the lead-up to the annual International World AIDS Day, marked this Sunday December 1st.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Thursday, 28th November 2013 - 9:35pm
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