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Reply: Body Positive has a significant role to play

Wed 5 May 2010 In: HIV View at NDHA

In one his recent blogs Michael Stevens (aka The Gay Blade) aired the view that Body Positive Auckland, by far the country's largest peer support group for HIV Positive people, seems to be the de facto voice for HIV positive people. It's true that most news journalists, including those here at tend to make BP their first port of call on matters affecting HIV positive people. But being perceived as a 'voice' for any part of our community has always been fraught with problems. But there are other spokesperson nor advocacy roles needed too, and if not Body Positive Auckland than who else can credibly step into the role? Bruce Kilmister, chief executive of Body Positive addresses the points raised by Stevens, but it may be worth clicking here to read or re-read Stevens' original blog first. Bruce Kilmister Michael raises some interesting points in that there are many HIV positive people who will only make contact with Body Positive when they have a concern or problem, and that's just great with us. We struggle to cope with all those that do come in the door for support. Last month we dealt with 375 visitors to the centre. We received 538 telephone calls plus another 71 calls to enquire about rapid tests from all over New Zealand. For the most part people living with HIV get on with their lives. Sadly there are a number who need help - whether its a clinical issue or any of the wide range of issues that HIV+ people encounter we are here to help. Just look at our website to see how much we offer - and all of it without a penny from the government. We should be funded. The Body Positive Vision is "All HIV+ people living fully productive lives free from stigma and discrimination." There isn't a week goes by when someone comes in to report on some personal form of discrimination - this week a boy who went to have his ears pierced at a chemist who refused to do it because of his HIV, or the woman whose dentist refused to treat her. Or the young man who was referred to us from the hospital because in the last month he was not coping with his new HIV diagnosis and had tried to end his life. Our work goes on. Body Positive has for many years assisted positive people to establish support for each other in the formation of local groups. Our policy has always been to offer support groups to operate under our legal banner as does Body Positive Waikato today. When the group grows bigger and wants to establish itself into a separate legal entity then we are delighted because this is "grass roots" activity. This is how Body Positive Canterbury grew and developed into PozPlus. There are other groups we are currently encouraging to establish themselves in their local area. We will assist with funding advice and material as much as we can. We run a number of national activities which all positive people from all over the country are welcome to attend. We usually find funding for transport and accommodation to these national events. Michael may well say Body Positive does not speak for him but we do speak for our membership which is now close to 500 HIV+ people. Michael speaks for himself. The Mission Statement of Body Positive is: "Peer support and advocacy for HIV+ People." We advocate for our membership as well as the positive community in many forms. We used to have two representatives for Positive People on the Board of the NZAF. Michael was one of them. Today the NZAF have no "Positive" representation on their Board that I am aware of. Our advocacy with the Ministry of Health, the government's drug funding agency Pharmac, WINZ, Immigration, Housing NZ, DHB's, are just a few of the external government agencies we deal with on behalf of our membership. The current topic of disagreement between NZAF and the positive groups in New Zealand is centred on the magazine Collective Thinking which NZAF produces for the positive community. What the positive community are saying is this belongs to the positive community to speak for itself. We don't need NZAF to speak for us. Apart from this one issue Body Positive has always had and today still has an excellent relationship with the NZAF across a wide range of common interests. To say there is no longer a need for Body Positive is naive in the extreme - in fact we are experiencing a growing demand for the services we supply. - 5th May 2010    


First published: Wednesday, 5th May 2010 - 12:20pm

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