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Foundation seeks community input in HIV fight

“Enough is Enough is Enough” (NZ AIDS Foundation seeks community input in fight against record levels of HIV)

Urgent action is needed to stem the record rise of HIV infections occurring among men-who-have-sex-with-men in New Zealand says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

But, says Rachael Le Mesurier Executive Director of the NZAF, tackling the rapid rise of new HIV infections is not something the AIDS Foundation can do on its own.

“The reason New Zealand has an international record for one of the best responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic to date is because, from the early days of the epidemic, there was community buy-in, especially amongst gay and bisexual men. But by 2004 there are so many new factors (such as increased STIs, drug treatments, internet sex hook ups) influencing our communities that we need to take stock together of what has changed and what is staying the same.

“The AIDS Foundation can keep doing what it has been doing, and can try to find new and innovative strategies to re-engage men with the safe sex message, but our effectiveness relies on our communities having input into those strategies and a shared responsibility for getting the message out there.”

To facilitate community input into developing new strategies, Ms Le Mesurier said the Foundation is hosting community forums in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch with the theme “Enough is Enough is Enough– it’s time to stop this epidemic now!”

The forums will be hosted by a local independent chairperson and will include a panel of NZAF and, in some centres, Body Positive.

“We want people to come along and ask questions, share their own views as to the reasons for this rise in the HIV epidemic and how it can be stopped. We believe that, if they are well supported, these forums have a very real chance of coming up with some strategies we can use to mount an effective response.”

Ms Le Mesurier said while gay and bisexual men were the main group she wanted to see at the forums, the Foundation also encouraged all people living with or affected by HIV (and their families) to attend.

“The experience, input and support of people already living with HIV will be central to any strategy that is developed as a result of these forums,” she said.

Health professionals with an interest in HIV/AIDS, representatives of allied communities and groups, and the families of gay and bisexual men who want to help in keeping their loved ones free of HIV are also encouraged to attend.

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