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World AIDS Day events roundup

Mon 13 Dec 2004 In: HIV

In the craziness surrounding the passage of the Civil Union Bill into law, World AIDS Day on 1 December slipped past with hardly a mention anywhere. But out of sight certainly doesn't mean out of mind. The day itself saw several key organisations come together for the first National HIV and AIDS Council meeting since the height of the last infection rates crisis in 1991. Attendees included representatives from infectious diseases specialists and Sexual Health Services from Auckland, (Community AIDS Response Team) Waikato, Capital Coast, Canterbury New Zealand Prostitutes Collective; Family Planning Association; Chair of AMTAC; Te Puawai Tapu; Refugee Health Education Programme; Needle Exchange Network; Starship Paediatricians, Body Positive and Positive Women. It is the increasing numbers of HIV infections, and therefore increased numbers of people living with the virus, that has prompted calls for a united fight against it, with this meeting sponsored by the Minister of Health. AIDS Foundation communications director Steve Attwood says this affirms the role of the group in ensuring progress on the national HIV/AIDS Action Plan which was launched on World AIDS Day last year. A broad range of HIV-related issues were covered at the meeting, in accordance with the Action Plan. Concerns were identified surrounding the implementation of compulsory HIV testing in the upcoming immigration changes, and the poor progress in ensuring good access to adequate treatments for people living with HIV. Yet to be discussed is the increasing complexity of support and care for new cases of HIV, possible increased risk in injecting P users, and availability of HIV testing and services to those at risk in rural/small centres. World AIDS Day collections were held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton, from which $23,600 was raised. The amounts collected in each city varied wildly, but AIDS Foundation communications director Steve Attwood says this is not a reflection on the generosity of each city. “There were very different levels of collection activity because of differences in numbers of staff and volunteers etc being available,” he says. “Overall we are pleased with the total amount which will be spent on supporting people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and assisting the NZAF programmes and services that do not receive funding from the Ministry of Health.” November 27 saw the community health groups event “Sex In The Park” in Christchurch in which the NZAF took part with its unique giant board game, “Sex'n'Ladders”. One of the more popular activities of the day, it involved youth people and their parents playing a game that was a cross between sexual health “Trivial Pursuit” and “Snakes And Ladders”, only the ladders had been replaced by giant condoms, and the snakes by unprotected sperm. Only a few attendees were uncharitable enough to mention the slightly unfortunate backdrop for the event... one of the city's larger cemetaries just over the fence. On November 29, the AIDS Foundation's cocktail reception was hosted by its patron, the Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright, at Government House in Wellington. Details of the event were eclipsed by a minor controversy involving National MP Georgina Te Heu Heu, who upset some at the gathering by wearing a pro-civil unions badge when she was voting against the legislation. When confronted by gay media, she removed the badge, saying she didn't want to be seen as a hypocrite. That aside, the purpose of the event was an opportunity for the NZAF to thank a number of its key Wellington supporters and members. Nikki Denholm from Refugee Health gave a moving address on her personal experiences working with HIV and AIDS globally. On the weekend of December 3, the AIDS Foundation hosted the National Takatapui Hui at Auckland University, attended by over one hundred men and women from around the country. Keynote speakers included Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, MP Georgina Beyer, Maori sexuality researcher Dr Clive Aspin, international advocate Uma Kali Shakti on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Association, and a special delegation of Aboriginal speakers from Australia representing indigenous gay men, lesbians and sistergirls (transgender). Labour MP Tim Barnett attended the hui with his partner Ramon Maniapoto and spoke about the Civil Union Bill.In response to this, the hui released a statement requesting Maori Party leader Tariana Turia to support the Civil Union Bill, which generated her now-infamous response that she didn't believe gay couples should even have next-of-kin rights, let alone a civil union. Other Maori MPs were also called upon to vote in favour of the Bill, as a means of showing their support to reducing homophobia in Maori. Turia has since expressed concern at being branded homophobic. "I can live with my decision - but I can not live with a perception that in following what I know to be right for me, some members of my whanau, of my electorate may have felt undermined," she says. "Addressing this perception is the challenge I must now face." Chris Banks - 13th December 2004    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 13th December 2004 - 12:00pm

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