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A thank you from Jonathan Smith

Mon 2 Feb 2015 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

At a New Zealand AIDS Foundation event celebrating Jonathan Smith, the New Zealand Order of Merit recipient offered plenty of thanks of his own. We share his speech: The NZAF, who nominated Smith, held a special event in his honour I would like to start by thanking NZAF (Shaun Robinson and David Friar) for hosting this event this afternoon, it’s greatly appreciated. And thanks to you all for joining us here today. You were invited to this event to acknowledge the support you have given myself and Kevin over the past 21 years. I was advised in August of last year that a nomination for a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit had been received and approved by the Governor General subject to the Queens ratification. ‘The queen’! I had to keep that quiet for four months – hard for me with my big mouth I am very aware of the amount of effort that is required to have a nomination accepted. I thank NZAF for steering the nomination. I am also aware of the copious amounts of support documents that are required to accompany the proposal. Naturally this is confidential to NZAF, so I am not privy to who was contacted and who submitted letters of support. You know who you are - I thank you It was 22 years ago next month that I was infected and a few months after my infection, my partner of 14 years died of a HIV related illness. I remember very well the time leading up to his death. There was amazing support for him and me from the NZAF Burnett Centre, my family and close friends. However my partner died with self-shame. And discrimination through ignorance from his family. I gained a lot of wisdom, strength and self empowerment during this time. I was determined to put a face to HIV to hopefully, in some small way, help reduce the alarming infection rate, help reduce discrimination and offer support to those people infected and affected by the virus. Those were my three goals. I needed to thank NZAF for their support during that difficult time so I offered my services and it was this offer that commenced my journey to achieve those three goals. I might have been the driving force behind many projects and events but they only succeeded due to the team of people prepared to work together to reach the final goal. This included volunteers, sponsors and the media Such events, people and groups include: My first event - HIV Walk for Life, the first AIDS march in New Zealand – supported by volunteers from the Burnett Centre and politicians TAG – treatments action group that Michael Stevens and I worked on. This group fought Pharmac for better treatments and won on many occasions Circle of Friends AIDS Memorial Garden with Maggie Barry – a tranquil garden to acknowledge those that have died of HIV related causes Positive Speakers Bureau – a group of trained positive speakers talking about their stories – I worked on this with Kevin Baker when he was the NZAF Positive Health Programme Manager and more recently, with a woman that I admire immensely, Jane Bruning from Positive Women Ali Mau was among the speakers Media – a special mention to Jay and Jacqui from Gaynz.com – they have supported me on every event that I have been involved with and always respected any required confidentiality. Also from the media, Ali Mau who has opened many doors for me and has been a true advocate for the fight against discrimination. Something she experienced herself a few years ago. I was asked an interesting question by the media the other day. How much has been raised from these projects and events during the past 21 years. I had no idea but did the calculation and was pleasantly surprised. Just over half a million dollars. Sponsors – there are many of you here. As I mentioned earlier, without your help these events would not have got off the ground and raised so much money. Other events include World AIDS Day National Street Appeal, Big Gay Out, The Positive Career Service, AIDS Media Awards, MAC Fashion Show’s, Billy Apple Art auctions all supported by NZAF And the return of the Auckland Pride Parade in 2013 And how can we forget Queen of the Whole Universe This show not only raised a considerable amount of money for NZAF, Body Positive and Positive Women, it also helped educate a very broad demographic and lift the self-esteem of many within the LGBTT community. Yes this show was very very successful but only because of the team that supported and believed in my mission. Some of those people were with me during the 10 year journey. What’s next – a queer pantomime – Snow White and the 7 Drag Queens. February 2016. Unfortunately discrimination still exists. More covert than it use to be even though we have laws in place to prevent this. The level of discrimination within the gay community is unacceptable. Using the term ‘Are You Clean’ in order to determine someone’s HIV status is offensive to any human being. How can we as a community challenge the wider community when such disgusting discrimination exists within? There is still an unacceptable level of complacency about safe sex within our community. There is still ignorance or denial about HIV which feeds into this complacency Smith's partner Kevin Baker (right) with 'the Queen' The New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Positive Women and Body Positive must be acknowledged for their fantastic work. Without their consistent commitment I am sure the level of discrimination and the infection rate would be far greater. Thank you to my specialist Dr Mark Thomas, my therapist Gabriela, Sarah Boocock, Te Herekiekie, Paul   

Credit: GayNZ.com staff

First published: Monday, 2nd February 2015 - 8:34am

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