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Brash comment mars AIDS memorial

Sun 15 May 2005 In: New Zealand Daily News

A speech by Opposition Leader Don Brash provoked a bitter response from gay men assembled for tonight's AIDS Candlelight memorial. At the Auckland event, one of several held throughout the country tonight to remember the almost 800 people lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Brash reminded the approximately 100 people attending that the disease "is not bound by gender, race or lifestyle." "Sports and fitness and is the lifestyle I choose, homosexuality is my God-given sexuality," said Neil, a 35-year old brewery worker. Gay men account for 80% of cases of HIV contracted in New Zealand "but he smudged over us and implied that we choose to be gay" commented one HIV positive gay man who says he has seen "around ten good friends" die from the disease. Comments around the supper table after the memorial service at St Matthews Church ranged from "I'm gay, it's my sexuality not my bloody lifestyle" to "It's that ugly old attitude rearing its head that we choose to be gay." Brash's speech was delivered by National MP Pansy Wong who had left the venue before the discontent was voiced. A response from the opposition leader's office was not available at publication time. MC for the evening the evening, Michael Bancroft, observed that AIDS Candlelight Memorials have been held for twenty years in Auckland and invariably on rainy nights "when tears fall from the sky." The hour-long Auckland event included performances by Ethiopian and Zimbabwean immigrants, songs, dance, the lighting of candles and calling of the names of some who have died over the 25 years of the epidemic. Speeches were also delivered on behalf of Governor General Dame Sylvia Cartwright, who observed that the number of people affected by HIV/AIDS keeps growing and "we cannot relax," and Prime Minister Helen Clark who said New Zealanders should remember the "painful past lessons we have learned" and "move to meet the challenges of the future."    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Sunday, 15th May 2005 - 12:00pm

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