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NZAF BOARD: "Please don't turn back the clock" says former chair Smith

Thu 9 Jun 2005 In: HIV

Jonathan Smith As a life member of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, previous board member and Chairman, and current volunteer and fundraiser, I naturally still have a very keen interest in the day to day happenings of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and HIV/AIDS in New Zealand even from the other side of the world here in Spain. Firstly, congratulations to Dr Clive Aspin on his appointment as the new chair of NZAF Board and to Simon Robb deputy chair. I wish them the greatest success in moving NZAF forward into what is to be a very challenging and difficult time, with HIV rates increasing and the major issue of treatment access in New Zealand. I read GayNZ.com's news story ‘NZAF board may have Maori, HIV quotas' (27 May 2005) and am very concerned that the Foundation Board might be turning the clock back some years and repeating a mistake that took NZAF some years to rectify. I am in total support of people living with HIV and/or Maori having representation on the board. But please appoint such people based on their skills and the requirements of the board rather than based on health status or colour. The Foundation was in a situation in the past where the constitution stated that the board structure must include two HIV positive people and two Maori representatives. Due to lack of interest, limited nominations and/or individuals presented to the board from hui or elections, NZAF was required to accept individuals who lacked the skills required to govern the Foundation, let alone to understand the difference between governance and management. This caused the board to progress slowly as it had a limited skill basis to make informed decisions. Subsequently it was not always able to offer the appropriate support to the Executive Director. During this period it was acknowledged that the constitution needed to be updated. This was amended some years later. The board MUST be structured on the skills required i.e. legal, HR, accounting, fundraising and PR as examples and not based on health status or colour. It is wonderful to have a nomination from someone who has these skills and is also HIV+ and/or Maori but never forsake a request from a white non HIV+ lawyer or accountant purely to justify a predetermined quota. As the face of the epidemic is changing annually will this mean that in the future anybody or community that has an infected or affected member will require representation on the Board? NZAF might need to seek new premises to accommodate the expanding board. The Foundation has an excellent history of consultation, which can continue, with Maori and HIV+ groups. The bicultural policies now in place are an excellent example to other organisations of how the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi can and should be merged into a company's structure, ethics and culture. The board is the steering wheel of the Foundation therefore it must be structured with this in mind in order to move the Foundation forward and support the Executive Director and the communities it represents. My comments are not in any way meant to degrade or criticise any existing or past board member or anybody's race or culture. They are to offer advice based on previous experience and new knowledge gained since leaving the board. In conclusion and to digress slightly, since accessing the British health system for my HIV care I would ask the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, HIV positive people and their supporters, HIV+ support groups, Pharmac and the New Zealand Government to please acknowledge that there is a treatment crisis for HIV+ people living in New Zealand... and to take the appropriate but simple actions to rectify this life threatening situation. Jonathan Smith Valencia, Spain Jonathan Smith - 9th June 2005    

Credit: Jonathan Smith

First published: Thursday, 9th June 2005 - 12:00pm

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