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Grant help research into why people take HIV risks

Press Release: Friday 29 April 2005

Grant will help researcher understand why people take risks that lead to HIV infection

A Study to try to understand the social and cultural factors that influence men’s decisions to put themselves at risk of HIV has been awarded the first Matt Whyte Postgraduate Research Grant by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

The $6000 per annum grant has gone to a study proposal presented by Michael Stevens who has just commenced a PhD at the University of Auckland. Matt Whyte was a long-term worker for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation who worked tirelessly in the field of HIV prevention and support of people living with HIV. He died of an AIDS-related illness last year.

NZAF Research Director Tony Hughes said a number of applications for the grant were received, but the proposal by Michael Stevens was the most outstanding and promised the most benefit to HIV/AIDS research and prevention programmes.

Stevens’ research concerns the lives of men with living with HIV, and especially those men who have become recently infected with the virus.

“I am interested in hearing from gay men who have been recently infected with HIV,” Stevens said, “and interviewing them about their lives at the time they think they became infected. We have a lot of excellent numerical data about HIV/AIDS in this country, but there hasn’t been any fine-grained qualitative analysis of the experiences of HIV positive men done for a long time.

Stevens said he wants to talk to men within 12 months of receiving their HIV positive diagnosis.

“My interest is driven by a number of factors, partially the rise in new infections that we have seen over the last few years, and also by the constant comments around the country during the NZAF Roadshow last year, where people kept asking about just why we were seeing this amount of new infections.

“By talking to men who have recently become infected I hope to get a better understanding of the social and cultural factors that influence HIV infection. This study will extend our knowledge of what lies behind HIV infection in New Zealand, and also provide information for further prevention campaigns.”

Stevens hopes to carry out in-depth interviews with men throughout the country. They will all be entirely confidential. No-one will be able to be identified by the process or in the findings.

“As someone who lives with the virus myself I am very sensitive to the situation of HIV positive gay men.”

Michael can be reached either through any NZAF centre, or directly via email at


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