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Ray talks about the history of HIV+ support groups in Canterbury - including Body Positive Canterbury and POS Plus. Ray also talks about the affect of the Canterbury earthquakes on himself and the support group.

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This podcast features Ray discussing the trajectory of HIV support groups in Canterbury, focusing on the inception and development of Body Positive Canterbury and POS Plus. Ray's narrative spans from their Christchurch upbringing, move to San Francisco in the '80s, return to New Zealand in the early 2000s, to setting up necessary HIV support infrastructure upon discovering its absence in Christchurch around 2001.

Fueled by their experience in creating peer support groups elsewhere, they were inspired by Ian Smith, manager of a local clinic, to create a space where HIV+ individuals could gather without needing to justify their existence or face judgment. With the support of Bruce Kilmister from Body Positive Auckland and Aaron McDonald, Body Positive Canterbury was operational by December 2002. It stood apart from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, which focused more on counseling and testing rather than creating a community space for shared understanding and mutual assistance.

The peer support group, which began with 10-15 members, served not only as a social forum but also as an educational platform where members could inform each other about medication side effects, navigate health services, and just be in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Over time, the group grew to around 25 members and undertook activities like monthly meetings, discussions, and outreach events.

However, the support group also experienced challenges. The death of a key member and organizer, Aaron McDonald, and the difficulties of obtaining sustainable funding led to the dissolution of POS Plus. The name would later change to avoid confusion with Body Positive Auckland while seeking independent financial sources.

Crucially, Ray also describes the profound impact the Canterbury earthquakes had on the group and themselves. The disasters not only disrupted care and venues but reshaped the city's infrastructure and social dynamics. Even though the initial September earthquake in 2010 had limited impact, the subsequent February 2011 earthquake caused immense structural damage, loss of lives, and disrupted vital services.

Through these experiences, the peer support group displayed resilience, adapting to the changes in location and circumstance, and evolved its dynamics as people became more supportive and sensitive to each other's needs. The natural disaster also brought about shifts in the community's psychological landscape, highlighting a shared bond among those who lived through the earthquakes.

As the group navigated the destruction of the city and loss of vital gay venues, it showed the crucial role that peer support plays in fostering resilience in communities experiencing shared trauma. The podcast encapsulates an authentic portrait of a community that has adapted and supported each other through significant adversity, both socially and environmentally.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:10th May 2012
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Christchurch, Canterbury
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-003969).