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Herne Bay House Closure understandable

06 September 2005

Herne Bay House Closure understandable, but alternative care still needed

The impending closure of Herne Bay House in Auckland, New Zealand’s only palliative and respite care facility for people with HIV/AIDS, will create a gap in services that needs to be met in other ways, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

The Foundation says it understands why Auckland City Mission has decided to close the house, especially as the demand for palliative care for people with AIDS has dramatically fallen since the introduction of improved HIV medications.

“People with HIV in New Zealand are now living longer and better quality lives, thanks to new treatments,” says Eamonn Smythe, National Positive Health Manager for NZAF, “and that reduces the need for places suitable for people dying of AIDS.”

However, the Foundation notes that while improved medications and the reduction in the numbers of people dying of AIDS is good news, life with HIV is still far from easy. For example, many of the medications have challenging and stressful side effects. Also, the routine of having to take what can be up to 30 pills a day, every day, for the rest of your life; plus issues around intimacy, keeping partners safe, prejudice and discrimination, and disclosing their HIV status to friends, family, sexual partners and employers, can create tremendous pressures for people living with HIV and their partners, whanau or care givers.

“There is a real need for respite care to continue, if not in a place like Herne Bay House, then by the delivery of gay and HIV-friendly services into the community, plus continuing support for maintaining medical regimes, and social and mental health. The Foundation is keen to be involved in the proposals Auckland City Mission and the Auckland DHB has for extending HIV/AIDS support into the community.”

The NZAF is also concerned that some people have interpreted from the City Mission statement that HIV/AIDS-related marginalisation of gay men is not the issue it once was and that the focus was shifting to heterosexually infected people.

While the social situation for MSM in New Zealand has greatly improved over the last 20 years, the recent debate over Civil Unions suggests that there is still some way to go before it can be claimed MSM are fully integrated into New Zealand society.

“The Foundation fully supports the extension of HIV/AIDS support initiatives to other affected groups, but it should be remembered that, of the new HIV transmissions that occurred within New Zealand in 2004, 89% were among men who have sex with men (MSM), and MSM still comprise more than 50% of the total number of people living with HIV in this country.”

ENDS

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