A large crowd gathered in Auckland tonight to mark thirty years since the establishment of the NZ AIDS Foundation heard that the comparative success of New Zealand's fight against the spread of HIV is grounded in a community response to a community problem. The Foundation's first executive director, Warren Lindberg, recalled with deep emotion the early days of the epidemic when the spread of HIV was in its early, deadly stages, and the associated campaign to have homosexual intimacy decriminalised. Warren Lindberg He paid tribute to the early pioneers in HIV prevention and treatments and to those who rose to the challenge of HIV and AIDS, such as the Foundation's first Patron, then-Governor General the late Sir Paul Reeves, and the earliest gay community campaigners such as Bruce Burnett and Ray Taylor. Lindberg expressed hope that the story of the fight against HIV/AIDS is being documented as part of the country's history. Current executive director Shaun Robinson highlighted that thirty years of HIV awareness and prevention work have maintained the comparatively low prevalence of HIV amongst gay and bi men in this country compared to other communities around the world. He attributed this in part to New Zealand's increasingly open and liberal social attitude to matters such as HIV prevention advertising and noted that such "awesome" results are "what thirty years of community effort can do." Robinson observed that the NZAF itself was born out of a community response to HIV in its midst. "It has been nourished by that community and has also empowered the many strands of that community," he said, adding that the result has been hundreds, if not thousands of lives saved." David Friar NZAF chair David Friar paid tribute to the far-sighted visionaries whose work, sometimes in the face of early "bitter and vicious opposition" laid the ground for the Foundation's existence and work. Thanks to them "we've come a hell of a long way," he said. He focused on the Foundation's prevention strategy strategy based on "five major planks": condoms, testing, treatment, PrEP and information/awareness, which he called Condoms Plus. Friar said future success in the fight against HIV will rely on an on-going "community response to a community problem, of the community, by the community." Amongst the approximately three hundred people gathered at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Events Centre tonight were the Foundation's first chair, Kate Leslie, its first director, Neville Creighton, philanthropist Sir James Wallace, early board members Alan Ivory and Bruce Kilmister and long-time staffer Tony Hughes. The event was MC'd by gay TV celebrity Tamati Coffey with an opening welcome by a glbti Maori cultural group and a high-energy dance performance by Fine Fatale.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Wednesday, 1st July 2015 - 11:43pm
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