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World AIDS Day 2023

December 1st is World AIDS Day, a day to honour and remember those we have lost to HIV, acknowledge those living with HIV and celebrate the progress we have made while recognizing the challenges that remain. This year’s marks the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day and the theme is to “Let Communities Lead”, and serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of enabling communities to make a real difference.

From the earliest days of the HIV epidemic, passionate, thoughtful action by people living with HIV, allies, advocates, communities, health care workers, and public health officials has helped to drive decades of scientific and clinical advances to change the trajectory of HIV. This has led to ground breaking initiatives such as the GIPA principles (The Greater involvement of People Living with HIV) which encourages the positive voice to be included at all levels of decision making and program design. This has ensured that solutions are considered and relevant for the people they are aimed to support.

Advances in treatment now means that anyone living with HIV in Aotearoa New Zealand can access care and treatment on diagnoses to ensure that they control the virus and stay healthy. This enables people to lead long and healthy lives, have children and even eliminates any risk of passing on HIV. We are promoting this message through our “I’m Healthy and I Live with HIV” campaign which showcases local heroes living with HIV as they share their stories.

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The important message is for people to get tested and know their status to engage in appropriate care. This includes accessing PrEP for the ongoing prevention of HIV or engaging in care and treatment when testing positive – all scenarios allow you to stay healthy once you are aware of your status.

Aotearoa New Zealand has removed its immigration barriers and now welcomes people living with HIV to migrate here as there is no associated cost burden. We are pleased to see an increase in people living with HIV choosing to move to the country now that the discriminatory immigration barriers have been removed.

This progress is promising, however ongoing stigma and discrimination persists and efforts must be further strengthened and expanded to reach all populations equitably. We continue to encounter discrimination in the work force based on outdated information about transmission risks. With the adoption of U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) we know that people on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV.

Community engagement has been a key part of HIV prevention work since the beginning of the epidemic, and ongoing community engagement remains core. We have been celebrating U=U since 2018 and continue to promote this message to change policies and attitudes and to eliminate stigma and discrimination.

On the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, we stand at a crossroads. Without sufficient investment in HIV we risk turning back the clock on the progress we have worked so hard as a nation to achieve. Together with ongoing commitment, we can honour the lives lost to HIV-related illness in Aotearoa New Zealand, and millions worldwide, by ensuring that everyone benefits equally from four decades of groundbreaking scientific advances.

We call on you to join us by sharing HIV success stories through our I’m Healthy campaign. Wearing a Red Ribbon on World AIDs Day to raise awareness. And to call out HIV stigma and discrimination. We encourage you to download and share these resources and share social media content from Body Positives digital content using the #WorldAidsDay and #ImHealthy hashtags.

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