NZ's HIV Approach an example to follow says UN
New Zealand’s success in managing it’s HIV/AIDS epidemic has been held out as an example for others to follow at the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and Pacific (ICAP) Conference currently being held in Kobe, Japan.
With one of the lowest incidences of HIV per head of population in the world, New Zealand’s story was highlighted by MP Georgina Beyer at ICAP on Saturday, where she emphasised the role of human rights legislation in helping prevent the spread of the virus. She was speaking by special invitation of the United Nations AIDS Organisation (UNAIDS) in a section of the conference devoted to the role of inspirational leadership in combating the spread of HIV. The presentations were intended to help inspire leaders from other nations to develop every opportunity available to reduce the spread of HIV in their own countries.
In her presentation, Ms Beyer told the 500-plus delegates how such measures as the Homosexual Law Reform Act and anti-discrimination Human Rights laws had directly contributed to New Zealand’s enviable record on HIV management.
Listening to the speech was NZ AIDS Foundation Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier who said the situation in many Asia-Pacific countries was the same as New Zealand had in the 1980s.
“What has emerged from this conference is that in many countries it is the minorities – men-who-have-sex-with-men, sex workers and injecting drug users – who are at greatest risk from HIV. She said that their situation was precarious in countries where their Governments and communities refused to tackle minority human rights issues in the way New Zealand had.
“New Zealand’s leadership can be seen in the fact that the Homosexual Law Reform Act removed from gay and bisexual men the fear of criminality and allowed them to come out and establish open and honest relationships. It also made them more accessible to HIV prevention education.
“As a result the number of cases where a man who has had sex with another man has then passed HIV on to his female partner have been extremely low in New Zealand. In countries where homosexuality is still a punishable crime, this is a major source of HIV transmission into wider communities.
“New Zealanders can be proud that their tradition of tolerance and openness has enabled world-leading legislation to be passed. It is inspirational that a former sex worker and transexual has been able to rise to the status of an elected representative whose story, and the story of our innovative legislation, is now being held out by the United Nations as an example for others to follow,” Ms Le Mesurier said.