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HIV more serious than ever - solution still simple

Press release: 28 11 05

HIV virus is more serious than ever before - the solution still as simple

World AIDS Day December 1 2005

In 2005, the 20th year of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, the message for World AIDS Day on 1 December is one that would be instantly recognised by those involved in New Zealand’s earliest HIV prevention campaigns - “condoms save lives.”

The Foundation’s poster for World AIDS Day this year features three “rings” - a popular round sweet with a hole in the middle, a traditional round flotation buoy and a condom - with the word “lifesavers” beneath. The idea of the “lifesavers” theme is to increase visibility and awareness of condoms over the summer months when sexual activity is high.

“World AIDS Day,” says NZAF National Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe, “is about raising awareness of HIV and AIDS and building support for people living with HIV. The Foundation thought it important, in its 20th year and as we contemplate the possibility of a record increase in HIV among men-who-have-sex-with-men in New Zealand, to highlight the issue by going back to the basics: That HIV is still a deadly serious, but readily preventable, viral infection.”

Eamonn Smythe says that while improved medical treatments delay the progression from HIV infection to AIDS for people living in countries like New Zealand, this does not mean people no longer have to worry about avoiding the virus.

“The truth is the drugs don’t always work, can be very difficult to take, and that early death from AIDS is still highly probable. Plus, living with HIV places mental, emotional, physical and relationship challenges on people that many find extremely difficult.

“So, while we will use World AIDS day to actively campaign for support for people living with HIV - including a collection in some areas for our national Wellness Fund - we also want to emphasise that while HIV is one of the most dangerous and devastating viruses in the world, ever, it is also incredibly easy to prevent. Effectively, in New Zealand, that means not sharing needles and making sure you use condoms and lube for anal and vaginal intercourse. It’s as simple as that.”

The NZAF will have World AIDS Day activities in Auckland, Hamilton Wellington and Christchurch. The Nelson AIDS Support Network is coordinating awareness and fund raising activities there, and the “Working Together” Group is organising Dunedin’s activities. A small WAD event is also planned in Northland.

In Wellington, the World AIDS Day activities will actually occur over a whole week and include displays, public HIV information sessions in Wellington Public Library, fund raising collections and a WAD service at St Andrews on the Terrace.

In Christchurch the WAD fundraiser will take the form of a “Hair Event” where some of the city’s top stylists are donating their time to do people’s hair for only $20. While the NZAF is contracted by the Ministry of Health for much of its work, a diverse range of services essential to the delivery of the Foundation’s goals of HIV prevention and support for those living with or affected by the virus, are dependent on funds raised from the community.

ENDS

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