An intended recipient of an NZ AIDS Foundation Life Membership declined to accept the award, describing the offer as "somewhat half-hearted and meaningless," claiming that the ceremony was "frivolous" in the face of the continuing spread of HIV, and suggesting that he was being used by the Foundation. During Sunday's Government House, Auckland, ceremony, at which the awards were presented by the Governor General to mark World AIDS Day, Ray Taylor's name was not mentioned, despite it appearing in an earlier NZAF listing of recipients. The Foundation would not elaborate on the reason behind Taylor's decision. "Ray decided to decline the New Zealand AIDS Foundation Life Membership for personal reasons which he requested the NZAF does not discuss publicly," said the NZAF Trust Board's Chair, Mark Henrickson, after the ceremony. Approached for his side of the situation, Christchurch-based Taylor says he declined the award because "I believe that the actual recognition of my achievements of 25 years of working in this field were somewhat less important than the community and political kudos to be gained by the Foundation. No one presently within the Foundation has any idea of what my achievements have been and they have made little to no effort to actually find out and so I therefore found the offer of the Lifetime Membership somewhat half-hearted and meaningless." Taylor added that he is "not happy to be acknowledged when others who have assisted their community for the same [length of] time are not." And he says the financial burden of attending the ceremony was beyond his means. "Living on a benefit leaves little to spend on appropriate attire for afternoon tea with the Governor General, let alone transport from the airport and other costs," he says. The NZAF Board is “saddened" by Taylor’s decision, Henrickson says, "but we remain very appreciative of the contribution Ray has made over many years. Ray has worked with great passion and commitment, since the inception of the NZAF, to further our mission of preventing the transmission of HIV and supporting people affected by HIV and AIDS to maximise their health and well-being." However, Taylor is clear that he is also protesting against the awards being conducted against the continuing high HIV infection rate amongst men who have sex with men, and what he sees as insufficient support for people with HIV. "I would be far happier attending frivolous ceremonies if HIV wasn’t still infecting men in my community and if positive people were being supported well," he says. Kate Leslie, Karen Ritchie and Miriam Saphira, all from Auckland, and Phil Parkinson from Wellington each accepted a Life Membership on Sunday. Wellingtonian Johnny Croskery was unable to attend and will receive his award separately. "It has been conveyed to Ray that should he change his mind, the Trust Board will make arrangements to make the presentation at his convenience," says Henrickson.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Tuesday, 2nd December 2008 - 11:25pm
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