30 Years On

2015 marks an important milestone in NZAF's history. This year we commemorate three decades of the AIDS epidemic in New Zealand and our community-based response to it.

Reflecting on 30 years

This year marks 30 years of NZAF’s work. I have been privileged to play only a small part in this journey; some of you have been around from the beginning when the gay community responded to the AIDS crisis. We pass the baton between us in what is a marathon, not a sprint.

Together we’ve seen many milestones: palliative care, the revelation of condom based prevention (the real life saver), law reform, human rights, the Hui Takatāpui movement and Pride. We've had breakthroughs in medication so that HIV is no longer a death sentence, the Love Life Fono, rapid testing and counselling in the community, the Big Gay Out and Love Your Condom ads all over the place. It’s been creative and emotional.

As a country we are one of the leaders in the management of HIV. Of the 39 million who have died world-wide, less than 800 have been Kiwis and our prevalence is very low compared to other western countries. This is the sum total of thousands of people’s efforts; thank you — we should celebrate.

But it's not enough. With the 2014 report showing an increase in new cases of HIV, our 30th anniversary will also signify a renewed vigour and conviction in responding to the epidemic. To eradicate HIV we need to use all we have learned in 30 years, add the new tools available today and strive for even greater success. We need more testing, no barriers to treatment, targeted use of PrEP and sexual education of the ethnically diverse 5,000 young gay men who hit puberty each year. We need to keep increasing the awareness of the importance of condom use.

We need your support today as much as we ever have.

- Shaun Robinson, Executive Director

The 30 Project

This episode begins in 1984, with the first New Zealander known to have HIV/AIDS – a man infected in San Francisco who had come home to New Plymouth to die. There were no treatments in those days and death was inevitable. The next ten years were formative in New Zealand’s response to the epidemic. The New Zealand AIDS Foundation grew out of the AIDS Support Network founded by Bruce Burnett and began the essential work of containing the spread of the virus.

The second episode spans the decade of 1995 to 2005. AIDS deaths peaked and then fell sharply as new HIV treatments meant a new world for those with HIV/AIDS and the people involved in HIV support and prevention. Increased research, evidence and experience meant that interventions could be targeted more precisely. Education campaigns grew in sophistication to respond to a changing landscape. Vigilance could not be relaxed.

The third and final episode explores how, between 2005 and 2015, changes in how gay and bisexual men connect and socialize become new challenges. The New Zealand AIDS Foundation now addresses a more fragmented audience than ever before, pushing it to find more creative ways to connect. Education and services must be tailor-made for the groups to which they are aimed, including ethnically diverse gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and African communities living in New Zealand. The success of NZAF is dependent on the success of these strategies.

In the first half of 2015, NZAF worked with Julian Cook and Zoomslide to produce The 30 Project, which is central to our 30th anniversary celebration. Archived film and video footage, photography and safe sex campaign materials were converted into accessible digital formats. The 30 Project consists of three short digital videos, each chronicling a ten year period. Award winning gay director David Herkt edited the new digital resource into stories that provide the viewer with a real and visceral insight into New Zealand’s response to the AIDS epidemic.

The 30 Project is not just a memorial, but also a resource for the future. We hope it will reconnect new generations with the real faces and stories of New Zealanders who have responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic over three decades and in some cases given the ultimate contribution – their lives. The project acknowledges the people that paved the way, helping to build NZAF into one of the most effective national HIV prevention organisations in the world.

Three decades of HIV in New Zealand: communities, clinics and condoms

The 30th Anniversary HIV Clinical Update Meeting took place in Auckland on 8 May 2015. The 2015 Update was a special themed meeting marking three decades of action against HIV: highlighting New Zealand’s successes; identifying areas to improve; and debating contemporary challenges. 

The presentations have been recorded in video format by the conference organisers and our research team have highlighted a few of the key presentations that might be of interest.

>> View the video presentations from the HIV Clinical Update

We would like to thank the conference organisers, the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) and in particular the organising committee, Dr Stephen Ritchie; Dr Peter Saxton and Dr Nicky Perkins, for organising this special meeting.

30 years of posters

Here's a throwback to some of our more memorable posters over 30 years: