7.00PM: In an ironic turnabout, the NZ AIDS Foundation is defending its prize offer of a trip to the USA, after criticising the OutTakes film festival for offering a prize of a holiday in Fiji, but says it will not offer such a prize again. GayNZ.com has confirmed that last year the Foundation offered a trip to Hawaii as an incentive for public participation in an evaluation of its safe sex promotion material. The USA has a standard policy of not admitting HIV positive people. Just two days ago the Foundation joined mounting criticism of the OutTakes gay film festival for offering a membership incentive prize of a trip for two to Fiji, where HIV positive people are not admitted and same sex acts between consenting adults in private are a criminal offence. “The two destinations do not compare,” says the AIDS Foundation's Acting Executive Director, Te Herekiekie Herewini. “Hawaii is one of the more gay-friendly and inclusive American states... Fiji still flogs and imprisons gay men for up to fourteen years for engaging in consensual sex. Last year's Pan Pacific AIDS Conference heard how the tremendously influential Methodist Church of Fiji has even issued press releases calling for gays to be put to death.” Herewini adds that the Foundation had a contingency plan in place for an HIV+ winner, which included “support for a visa waiver application” or providing an alternate destination. “While entry for HIV+ people into the USA can be complicated and difficult, it is not impossible,” says Herewini, a stance confirmed in part by Body Positive spokesperson Bruce Kilmister who says the American authorities have made special arrangements for HIV positive people passing through the USA to attend an AIDS conference in Toronto this August. “But,” reflects Kilmister, “who would want to be on an American database of people with HIV?” Herewini says the Foundation remains critical of OutTakes' Fiji prize offer. “In light of Fiji's blatant mistreatment of its glbt citizens and visitors, we stand by our original comments. We find it extraordinary that Reel Queer would consider sending members of the glbt community to a country where sex between men is criminalized.” Asked by GayNZ.com whether the NZAF has an official policy regarding future prize destinations, Herewini says the Foundation will not run any more competitions offering a holiday destination in a country where homosexual sex is criminalised or which persecutes or discriminates against HIV positive people. Despite advice from OutTakes that an official spokesperson would be made available from yesterday afternoon to address the Fiji prize controversy no such person has been forthcoming and GayNZ.com's calls to OutTakes contacts today have not been returned. Questions forwarded to over 24 hours ago to the prize trip destination, Octopus Resort in Fiji, about the appropriateness of Fiji as a gay community prize, have drawn no response.
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Tuesday, 30th May 2006 - 12:00pm
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