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Life Memberships handed out at glitzy venue

Sat 27 Nov 2010 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Muted applause was overcome by a thunderous haka from supporters as Mama Tere Strickland received her Life Membership of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. Despite being at the centre of controversy over whether she should be given the award since the honorees were revealed, Strickland was simply a quiet background figure, hidden under a huge hat at the ceremony at Auckland's lavish Government House. She was barely mentioned apart from the reception of her award. Meanwhile tributes flowed to the other Life Members and the outgoing Executive Director of the NZAF Rachael Le Mesurier. After gathering outside on the street guests were welcomed into the grounds and mingled in the sun with glasses of wine and canapes before the award presentation. The awards were handed out by the Governor General Anand Satyanand, who pointed out it was Le Mesurier's last AGM as the head of the foundation. He thanked her for her work, saying "there is no doubt you have played a greatly appreciated role in the organisation for the past seven years." Governor General Anand Satyanand Satyanand spoke of the Foundation's proud 15 year history in the battle against HIV/AIDS, saying it has come of age and established itself as a respected and credible organisation, pointing out many more New Zealanders would have been infected if not for its work. He said challenges remain, as "every new infection is a tragedy" and there remains a need to confront prejudice, encouraging "everyone to redouble efforts to fight this terrible virus". The Life Members were then honoured, here are their NZAF citations : Dr Graeme Carpenter, who practised as a GP in Christchurch where, for many years he was the GP with the highest caseload of patients living with HIV and became notable for seeing them free of charge. Dr Carpenter's medical practice in the centre of the city played a key role in promoting sexual health, HIV testing and safe sex and he became a reference point for many gay men further afield in the South Island. Dr Carpenter served as Chair of the NZAF Trust Board from 1998 to 2000 and continues to practice in Northland. Originally from Gisborne, Charles Chauvel began lobbying for Homosexual Law Reform in 1985 and joined the NZAF as a volunteer in 1988 in what was known as the Human Rights Programme. He has been a member and supporter, served on the Trust Board first as a member, and then as the Chair, from 1990 to 1996. In 1994, he was appointed to the Public Health Commission and seconded to the team that worked to successfully see the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Act amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or disability. Chauvel worked tirelessly to secure the passage of the Civil Union Bill. In more recent times, his work has been integral to the abolition of the ‘homosexual advance' or gay panic defence and he was appointed to UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Shona Fordyce has been very prominent in the fight against HIV in Southland. As the Sexual Health Nurse in Invercargill, Ms Fordyce has served a geographically isolated and widespread area and a community with deep-seated attitudes to HIV and diverse sexual orientations. Each year she has single-handedly organised the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial – the most Southern of the memorials run by 1,200 community organisations in 115 countries. GayNZ.com blogger Michael Stevens was among the nominees, he is pictured here with his mum Michael Stevens returned to Auckland in the mid 1990s after many years living in Turkey. He publicly acknowledged his HIV positive status and shortly thereafter became involved with the NZAF as a volunteer. He was elected to the NZAF Trust Board August in 1998, where he served as Deputy Chair, and then Chair from 2000 to 2004. He has supported and attended many HIV related events since 1998 and is an active gay community member. Throughout this time, he has been a leading and articulate advocate for the NZAF as a regular letter writer and Op Ed contributor to the NZ Herald on issues of HIV and safe sex. Mr Stevens was the first recipient of the NZAF Matt Whyte Research Grant in 2005 and then again in 2006 and 2007, for his PhD thesis on The Social and Cultural Context of Recent HIV Infection among Men have Sex with Men in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has regularly speaks to the media on issues related to HIV, both as a person living with HIV, and as a sociologist and has taken an articulate stance in New Zealand's gay media against bare-backing, the lower profile of HIV and the need for more gay community advocacy for safe sex. Mama Tere Strickland (Nga Puhi me Aitutaki), has been involved with the NZAF since 1996 and has been a strong advocate for the mission of the NZAF and safe sex messages for more than 15 years. She has been an active participant at the NZAF Hui Takatapui since 1997 and represented the takatapui communities on the NZAF Trust Board from 1999 to 2001. She has provided guidance and support for NZAF Kaimahi in the Hau Ora Takatapui programme (1999 to 2008) and continues to do so for current Maori staff. She is one of the advisors to the Trust Board on issues for Maori. At the time of the Life Membership Award nominations she was the Co-ordinator of Te Aronga Hou Inaianei where she offered support for takatapui a iwi and their whanau. She is a community worker and an outspoken campaigner for transgender rights, takatapui tane and vulnerable rangatahi in South Auckland, in one of New Zealand's most challenging urban areas. Trust board chair Alastair Cameron has offered thanks to the recipients, saying "We are very grateful to these people who have made an invaluable and meaningful contribution to the communities we serve and our mission of preventing the transmission of HIV and supporting people affected to maximise their health and wellbeing." It was Le Mesurier's final AGM as NZAF head The awards ceremony was closed by Aunty Wai Mason, who honoured Le Mesurier as the "backbone to the whanau" and said she has been dedicated and professional over the past seven years, creating a true partnership with Maori under Treaty principles. The AGM followed, with chair Alastair Cameron voted in for another term. He has been joined on the NZAF Trust Board by Wellington policy analyst Kaine Thompson.    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Saturday, 27th November 2010 - 4:56pm

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