New Zealand's success in managing the HIV/AIDS epidemic is being hailed internationally as an example to follow. Despite the recent disturbing spike in HIV infections here, our country still has one of the lowest incidences of HIV per head of population in the world, a story highlighted by MP Georgina Beyer on Saturday at an Asia/Pacific AIDS conference in Japan, where she appeared by special invitation of the United Nations AIDS Organisation. Beyer emphasised the role of human rights legislation in helping prevent the spread of the virus, citing New Zealand's Homosexual Law Reform Act and anti-discrimination Human Rights laws as legislation that had directly contributed to New Zealand's enviable record on HIV management. Also in attendance was AIDS Foundation executive director Rachael LeMesurier, who compared the current situation in many Asia-Pacific countries with New Zealand in the 1980s. "New Zealand's leadership can be seen in the fact that the Homosexual Law Reform Act removed from gay and bisexual men the fear of criminality and allowed them to come out and establish open and honest relationships. It also made them more accessible to HIV prevention education," she says. "As a result the number of cases where a man who has had sex with another man has then passed HIV on to his female partner have been extremely low in New Zealand. In countries where homosexuality is still a punishable crime, this is a major source of HIV transmission into wider communities." LeMesurier praised Beyer's personal story as inspirational, as well as the Kiwi tradition of tolerance openness, which "has enabled world-leading legislation to be passed. It is inspirational that a former sex worker and transexual has been able to rise to the status of an elected representative whose story, and the story of our innovative legislation, is now being held out by the United Nations as an example for others to follow."
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Monday, 4th July 2005 - 12:00pm
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