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Nurses fighting AIDS stigma

Nurses fighting AIDS stigma

Stigma and discrimination are HIV/AIDS’ best friends, says HIV nurse specialist at Capital and Coast District Health Board Suzanne Miller. “While people continue to think only those in marginalised and criminalised sectors of society risk catching the disease, rates in New Zealand among all sectors of society will continue to increase.”

Miller is guest speaker at a celebration of International Nurses Day (IND) at the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) head office in Wellington on Monday May 12. She will be addressing the International Council of Nurses’ theme for 2003 of “Nurses fighting AIDS stigma.” Miller says the disease has reached pandemic proportions, with around 1300 HIV-positive men, women and children in New Zealand and 40 million living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. As numbers continue to grow, everyone is at risk of contracting the disease, she warns.

“HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of age, gender, economic and social status or sexual preference. In the last few years, society has become more complacent about the disease and as a result, numbers are increasing. If we are going to put an end to stigma and discrimination, then we must speak about it openly and honestly so that we will all know how to protect ourselves.”

During her address at the NZNO celebration, Miller will use two life-sized, wire mesh torsos – one male, one female – to illustrate how the disease is transmitted and how it doesn’t discriminate.

Ministry of Health chief nursing adviser Frances Hughes will attend the gathering to update nurses on measures introduced by the Ministry to deal with cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in New Zealand. Other guests include Minister of Health Annette King, MP and health select committee member Steve Chadwick, Nursing Council chief executive Marion Clark and directors of nursing from the greater Wellington region.

Fifty helium-filled, purple balloons have a special role to play on IND. At 3pm on May 12, the balloons will be carried through Willis St to NZNO’s new office in Willbank Court.

Other events marking IND in Wellington include an event at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation Awhina Centre, where the contribution of practice nurses to the health and welfare of people living with HIV will be celebrated. The evening will include an update on HIV treatments and a presentation on the impact of HIV/AIDS among refugee communities in New Zealand.

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