Celebrated US HIV activist coming to New Zealand
Bruce Richman, the founder of U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) movement is heading to Aotearoa next week for a series of keynote speaking engagements about the realities of HIV.
With Bruce at the helm, U=U is standing up for the rights of people living with HIV, fighting stigma which all contribute to decreasing transmissions.
The U=U movement conveys that if someone living with HIV has maintained an undetectable viral for more than six months, HIV is not passed on through sex, even if condoms or PrEP aren’t used. An undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in a person’s body is no longer at detectable levels by a standard viral load test.
"When I learnt that U=U, it changed my life because so many of us who live with HIV could never imagine a time when we could love, when we could have sex or have babies without fear - and that fear has been present in the most intimate moments of our lives," says Bruce.
"I was elated but I was also outraged because people weren’t being told. I had been alone for nine years because I didn’t want to pass on HIV to someone I loved. When I was diagnosed I knew I would live but I didn’t want to live because I felt like I couldn’t love anyone without the fear of passing this disease on."
After being fed up with the stigma for so long, Bruce started the U=U movement. Now, he travels the world inspiring people living with HIV, MSM and other at-risk communities to help spread the message.
He has come up against resistance, even having been called "a danger to gay men’s holistic health", despite his assertion that he is helping people living with HIV to have healthy sexual and reproductive lives, free of fear and shame.
"We teach a lot about messaging because it’s so important to get it across accurately.
"We can’t leave the window open by using terms like an undetectable viral load ‘reduces risk’ or there’s ‘extremely low risk’ or allow people to say that people should still use a condom or PrEP just in case, because all these phrases still mean you’re dangerous. Instead we can use phrases like ‘zero risk’ and ‘won’t transmit’ - we really can use them now because the greatest minds in the field are saying it," says Bruce.
U=U is an international consensus statement, signed and supported by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Body Positive, Positive Women and INA Foundation. Top medical journal The Lancet named the U=U statement as "the most important message of 2017 in the fight against HIV."
There are around 3,500 people living with HIV in New Zealand whose lives will be positively impacted by the U=U message.
Bruce will be available for interviews. If reporters would like to attend any of the events below, they are very welcome.
The U=U Tour
Wellington - November 1st from 5.30pm Te Kāhui Auaha, 65 Dixon St - https://www.facebook.com/events/1921745664560076/
Auckland - November 2nd from 5.30pm Ellen Melville Centre, Freyberg Place - https://www.facebook.com/events/2138826936384644/
Christchurch - November 3rd from 5.30pm Great Hall: Arts Centre, 2 Worcester Boulevard - https://www.facebook.com/events/290076688387932/
Free HIV testing will be available.
The panel of speakers will also include:
Nic Holas - the co-founder of The Institute of Many, an Australian grassroots movement for people living with HIV
Jason Myers - Chief Executive, NZAF
Marama Mullen-Tamati MNZM - Kaiwhakahaere of INA Foundation
HIV+ speakers, thanks to Positive Speakers Bureau
The U=U tour aims to significantly reduce HIV stigma, as well as fears that HIV negative people have about having sex with someone who is HIV positive.
The U=U tour is brought to New Zealand in collaboration with Dynamix International - firstname.lastname@example.org